Becoming My Best Self: My Shero Attributes Shamena Maharaj Tellwell (Reviewed: October 2019)

Becoming My Best Self: My Shero Attributes is a colorfully illustrated picture book that seeks to teach young readers the attributes that will make them good, caring people.

Written as a guide with short illustrative examples, this book presents 12 words people can embody to be better community members and become heroes or “sheroes” in their own circles. Each word is assigned to a month: for example, February’s word is “kindness,” which includes an example of a girl who starts a clothing drive to help her community, while September focuses on “failure,” which describes a girl who fails a karate test but practices harder to improve.

The illustrations are warm, vibrant, and inclusive, featuring characters of different races, genders, and abilities. Both they and the stories feature women and girls, although a few stories include boys as primary and secondary characters.

“Shero” is defined rather broadly, as: “all of the people in our lives that we admire.” This diffuses the book’s focus to include all sorts of qualities a reader should embody— everything from “joy” and “happiness” to “failure” and “setting goals.” A more traditional definition of heroism (showing courage and bravery) would have given the book a tighter, more coherent focus.

Also, while the included concepts are all positive, one of the supporting examples seems a bit of a stretch: To illustrate “mindfulness,” which the author defines as “being present with our thoughts, experiences and emotions on a moment to moment basis,” the author includes the story of Rama, who sends a party invitation to his blind friend in Braille. The example seems more related to “compassion” or “thoughtfulness” than mindfulness, as it’s commonly understood.

Despite these issues, readers will appreciate these memorable examples of young people doing good deeds and learning from their mistakes.



Foreword Clarion Reviews



Shamena Maharaj
Tellwell Talent (Jul 22, 2019)
Softcover $25.00 (28pp)

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Becoming My Best Self is an instructional guide designed to help children lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

Shamena Maharaj’s instructional picture book Becoming My Best Self is concerned with cultivating inner attributes with practice and intention.

Each of the twelve months are used in turn to frame the book’s focal “shero” attributes, which are forwarded as items to be studied every day. January covers compassion; February, kindness; September is devoted to failure, and October discusses mindfulness. Suggestions for bringing these special, admirable characteristics to life are active: the text encourages its audience to practice inclusion, experience joy, and set goals. It also clarifies the part of speech that each attribute embodies—share is labeled a verb, and inclusion a noun. Terms are also defined, and examples of children living each concept out are clear: two sisters learn about care as they look after their new dog; a boy practices happiness on a trip to the zoo.

Its methodology instructional, the book is most concerned with providing lessons attached to its central attributes, though it also creates a narrative around each. Children with varying characteristics and looks help others from different backgrounds; the text, as a whole, imparts a sense of unity and caring. Diversity is represented in the characters’ names and pictures to assert that these lessons apply to all; the book becomes a safe space to learn.

How these attributes were chosen is not explained, and arguments for their integration into the audience’s lives don’t extend in a compelling way beyond the images of happy children. Beyond the specific examples, there’s little guidance for incorporating the attributes in a responsive way beyond the text.

The book’s tense shifts and changes in point of view are distracting, and its structure is repetitive. Images of attributes are followed by descriptive pages of text; headings in bold are instructional, and examples are provided in the paragraphs that follow. The layout holds attention and gets points across with speed. Hearts over bolded “i”s help to set the book’s tone of acceptance and love.

Quirky hand-drawn illustrations depict the children who act out each month’s lesson. They are inclusive, showing children of all nationalities, abilities, shapes, and sizes; their color scheme includes greens, peaches, pinks, and yellows. The result is gentle and warm.

Becoming My Best Self is an instructional guide designed to help children lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

Reviewed by Rebecca Monterusso
October 28, 2019

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.