Do what you love - be who you are
We've Got Talent by Hannah Whitty and Paula Bowles
What's it about?
Olivia the bunny and Sam the rhino are looking forward to the school play and hope to star in it. They practice really hard for their auditions. When the cast is announced, Sam and Olivia both have parts. Unfortunately, the roles they are been given aren't what they wanted, nor are they best suited to Olivia and Sam's individual talents. Sam and Olivia come up with a plan so that they can be themselves and shine on stage too.
What can we learn?
We may like doing different things, but we all have talent. We don't have to be defined by gender stereotypes or the expectations placed on us by others. It's important to do the things we love, be proud of who we are, and embrace the gifts we have.
What makes this stand out? We've Got Talent is an empowering story with a beautiful message. It's a lovely celebration of the arts and individuality, and channels all the excitement and energy of a live performance. The characters are incredibly cute and endearing. Bright and cheerful illustrations make this an even more uplifting read.
About those illustrations...
They're delightful - so warm, lively and colourful with lots of clever and amusing details. The lighting technician at the school theatre is a mole which made me laugh, as did the scenery-painting frog. Sam is remarkably light on his feet as a ballerina and I love how fierce Knight Olivia looks.
The expressions of all the characters, even those in the background, are hilarious and adorable. There are references to Paula and Hannah's other series, Superkitty in posters and flyers that decorate various walls. There's also a Superkitty soft toy in Olivia's room. I LOVE how she arranges all her cuddly toys into an audience while she stands on her bed and runs lines.
Why we love it...
We've Got Talent is a powerful and positive story that helps children learn valuable life lessons yet never feels heavy-handed. I love how this challenges conventional attitudes about gender with the characters of Olivia and Sam and by exposing Miss Bink's views as old-fashioned and ridiculous. When Miss Binks tells Olivia that the princess doesn't need to speak because she dances so gracefully, the narrator emphasises how that "didn't feel right at all."
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, gender stereotyping can limit the development of natural talents and abilities, educational and professional experiences, and life opportunities. Books that explore and examine cultural biases are crucial for broadening the horizons of young people and ensuring they reach their potential.
Why you need it...
If you have children whose interests don't conform with traditional gender roles, this is a great book for reassuring them that it's OK to like what they want. Emphasising that we all have unique skills which aren't gender-specific will build confidence in little readers. As the book discusses how doing certain things doesn't "feel right" to Sam and Olivia, it helps young people to identify times when they are themselves uneasy and to talk about this. We've Got Talent encourages all children to pursue their dreams, and it's also an incredibly sweet and entertaining story.
About the author:
Hannah Whitty was surrounded by creatives while growing up and quickly discovered a passion for literature, particularly children's books. She is the author of the Superkitty books and has worked with a number of publishers as both author and illustrator, including Tiger Tales, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster.
About the illustrator:
Paula Bowles has worked as an illustrator for over ten years. She is a keen cyclist, a lindy hop dancer, and a tightrope-walker! Paula has illustrated several children’s books and you can see a list of them all here. We love Wanda's Words Got Stuck and Sammy Claws which were illustrated by Paula and written by Lucy Rowland.