Too Shy for Show-and-Tell

Written by Beth Bracken
Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
32 pages  •  Published 2014 (Picture Window Books)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Publisher's Summary: Sam is a quiet little boy who hates show-and-tell. Just thinking about it makes his stomach hurt. Sam must find a way to conquer his fear of show-and-tell.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: Young children who have difficulty speaking to and/or in front of other children will feel reassured by this book that they’re not the only ones. They may also be inspired by Sam’s bravery to face their own fears and speak up in front of their peers. This book could be used to start a conversation about the potential benefits of exposure and about how the outcome of Sam’s bravery (e.g., support from his peers) was different from his fears (e.g., that they’d laugh at him).
Would a child like it? A young child who relates to Sam will enjoy this book. It addresses in a kind way a lot of kids’ common fears about speaking up in class, and it has a reassuring ending.
Evidence-Based Practices: Exposure
Tone: Sweet, reassuring
Story Quality: It’s a sweet story, without any roughness or darkness. Perhaps a bit bland, but for young kids, it’s likely to be comforting rather than boring.
Illustrations: Sweet, watercolor illustrations of cute animals wearing clothes and living in a human world (with classrooms, bedrooms, birthday cakes, etc.).
Representation: Sam is a male giraffe with a giraffe mother. He attends school with a female ostrich teacher (Miss Emily) and classmates who are different animals (an alligator, hippo, elephant, etc.). Sam doesn’t talk at school, until the ending when he participates in show-and-tell.
Psychological Practices: This story helps kids who are very shy or quiet at school to feel less alone, and it provides a nice example of an exposure exercise–Sam is very anxious about presenting during show-and-tell, but he does it anyway, and none of the bad things he feared ended up occurring (“Sam didn’t faint. He didn’t throw up. He didn’t cry. And no one laughed”). The good outcomes of the book are that the kids in Sam’s class now know him a little better than they did before, and he feels capable of presenting in show-and-tell again in the future.
Concerns: On the morning of show-and-tell, Sam has a hard time getting out of bed and tells his mom that his tummy hurts. The book states that he lied about this, implying that he was trying to get out of going to school that day, and his mom says, “You’re fine, and you need to go to school today.” I think it’s extremely possible that Sam’s tummy actually did hurt because of his anxiety and that he wasn’t lying. It would have been much better for his mother to respond something like, “My tummy hurts too sometimes, when I’m really nervous about something. Let’s get you a yummy breakfast so you’ll be ready to be brave today.”

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