Marlo Thomas originally got the idea for the book, “Free to Be You and Me” when she was reading children’s books and found that most of the main characters were fairly “perfect.” Whether she felt that this was too stressful of a role model for the children reading the books to live up to or whether she wondered if children were being encouraged to abandon their individuality is unknown to this reader. As far as I am concerned, both reasons seem logical and great motivators to write a book that encourages children to be themselves.
Now, thirty-five years later, Ms. Thomas’ book is being re-released in a 35th anniversary edition that includes new illustrations and a CD of all the songs for children to sing along.
Originally published in 1973, “Free to Be You and Me” still relays the same messages today that it did at its first release. It encourages children to be themselves by breaking stereotypes, ignoring gender roles and embracing their individuality. The book is full of stories, poems, and cartoon sequences that illustrate how special it is to be a child, especially one that is free to be themselves.
The book opens with a cartoon conversation between a baby boy and a baby girl who know they are different, but as this is their first day alive, realize they have more in common than not. It moves on through stories of a young girl’s determination to play sports on a all-boys team, even when they refuse her and of a young boy who own a doll and has to deal with how his other friends view him for his choice. There are views of all types of differences and while the book’s tales predictably encourage children to embrace their individuality, I found that they also manage to shine a light on how much we all have in common – regardless of race, gender, size, shape, religion or ethnicity.
While the book is marketed for the 9-12 year old crowd, it would not surprise me in the least that both younger and older children enjoy it. All of the stories and poems included are also written in musical form in the back of the book for those who are musically inclined and want to give them a try on whatever instrument they play. Additionally, it would be a good book for a scout troop or church group who wants to put on a show! For those who don’t play music, but love to sing, the 35th anniversary edition also comes with a CD of all the songs so that your children can sing along!
If there were ever a children’s book that deserved to be “freshened up” for today’s children and re-released with celebration, “Free to Be You and Me” is it.
The recipient fo the brand-new hardback copy of the 35th anniversary edition, complete with CD is Terri P. of Vermont! Congratulations, Terri! I hope that you and your enjoy the reading and musical fun of this book!