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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: Safina and Clara are next-door friends who play together a lot. When Clara comes over to spend the night, she ends the day by telling a scary story that keeps Safina awake well into the night. After talking with her mom, Safina understands that Clara was using her imagination, and the next time Clara comes over, Safina has her own scary story. This is a story that imparts lessons on friendship and safety.
Type of Reading: playtime reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 8; read yourself: 9 to 13
Interest Level: 6 to 9
Age of Child: Read with 4½-year-old child.
Young Reader Reaction: Our kindergartner didn't show much reaction to this story. S/He wasn't overly interested in reading it.
Adult Reader Reaction: Thankfully we pre-screened this book. When we read it with our child, we skipped over HUGE sections of text as they did not seem appropriate for the target audience. Clara doesn't seem like much of a friend. The personal safety issues that the author wants kids to take seriously are embedded in a tale that Safina's mom characterizes as her friend's "imagination" and dismisses.
Pros: The story talks about personal safety and offers guides in the back. The author offers scenarios for discussion and role playing.
Cons: The story is too wordy and tries to cover too many subjects for this audience. The idea of personal safety doesn't surface as quickly as the seemingly one-sided friendship and its spiteful acts. Readers get focused on Clara's behavior and lose sight of the purported message.
Borrow or Buy: Skip it. Personal safety is something that we need to discuss with all kids, but it needs to be done in a straight-forward manner that isn't couched behind scary bedtime stories.
Educational Themes: If you take the time to dissect the book, there are several things you can do: discuss friendship and etiquette for playing together, discuss personal safety, talk about real and imagined events (in proper context), and role play scenarios for each theme.