It’s December again. Let the Christmas countdown commence! And let me share a Christmas picture book that makes a perfect stocking filler – Christmas For Greta and Gracie by Yasmeen Ismail (Nosy Crow 2015). As the title suggests, the story set around a Christmas time and it features a Christmas miracle, but at its core it’s about beauty of being introvert.
Greta and Gracie are sisters. Greta is the older and bigger one and she’s very very chatty. On the other hand, Gracie, the younger one, is quiet. On Christmas Eve, they go for Christmas tree decorating, present shopping and ice skating. Every time Gracie tries to say something or do something, Greta talks over or corrects her. The know-it-all big sister even tells the poor little one ‘Don’t be silly. You’re wrong. You’re too little, too quiet, too slow.’
I only have a big brother so I don’t have the first hand experience of having a sister, but I can tell Yasmeen Ismail‘s characterisation of these two sisters is spot on. And, for being introvert myself, I really feel for Gracie. I see the introvert as a simple opposite of the extravert – no less, no more. However, sadly, we live in the world where extraverts are seen in a positive light (charismatic, chatty, confident) and the word ‘introvert’ bears negative connotations. The author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain says:
“Introversion- along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness- is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living in the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”
And she points out effect of this unfair bias on children:
“If you’re an introvert, you also know that the bias against quiet can cause deep psychic pain. As a child you might have overheard your parents apologize for your shyness. Or at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell” -that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and some humans are just the same.”
To my and fellow introverts’ delight, Gracie flights back (in her own quiet way). In the night of Christmas Eve, Gracie hears a funny noise while Greta is snoring away. It leads to a surprising and magical encounter that Gracie proves it’s good to be slow, little and quiet. The next morning Gracie tells her big sister about the Christmas miracle and it leaves chitty chatty Greta lost for words! I can tell you the expression on Greta’s face at the end is priceless!
Ismail’s illustrations are ever so sweet and delightful and the use of speech bubbles is genius. I would suggest this book to all the introvert kids in the world and let them know it’s OK to be quiet and shy because, as Susan Cain says, it’s not something that needs to be cured. On the contrary, introverts tend to be creative and observant with high emotional intelligence. Let us embrace who we are and enjoy merry yet chilled holiday season!
Merry Christmas and happy reading, everyone!