Same, Same but Different

Same, Same but Different

Written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Henry Holt and Company, 2011

32 pages, Realistic Fiction

In Same, Same but Different, Elliot, from Australia, and Kailash, from India, write letters to each other, describing their worlds and comparing their experiences. As the boys write about their families, houses, pets, and favorite subjects in school, they realize that their differences make them unique while their similarities bring them together. As the boys learn about each other, their friendship grows and their letters become more frequent.

Kostecki-Shaw, the author and illustrator, provides great examples of similarities that span even great cultural differences. For example, although Elliot’s family is much smaller than Kailash’s family, both boys are able to talk about their families and where they live. The combinations of similarities and differences serve primarily as a window for young students who do not know as much about other cultures so that they can understand more about other parts of the world. While children might not be able to relate to every part of Elliot’s life, the background images from Elliot’s world will probably look more familiar than the background of Kailash’s life. For students who grew up in other parts of the world, this book serves as a mirror for teaching about their culture and their lives. With the pen pal format, students can see a model of how two boys who seemed to have very different lives were actually very similar. The book can also serve as a door for students to write to their own pen pals and create similar memories through a school project. Pairing this book with a pen pal project provides students with the opportunity to continue to learn about someone from a different culture and to explore what people do in other areas of the world.

The illustrations in the book are very colorful and attention-grabbing, which can draw in younger readers who might not understand all of the words. Kostecki-Shaw used crayons, acrylics, and collage to create the illustrations, and the mixed media helps some of the background images stand out, especially when Kailash and Elliot describe where they live. In most cases, the boys are fairly large on the page; even though the boys are in a crowd when they are going to school, they are drawn slightly larger than the other children, which could be seen as their confidence in making a new friend. At the end of the text, the boys are shown sleeping in their own rooms with the drawings from the other boy taped to their walls, which demonstrates the importance of this project to each boy. After seeing how the letters impacted the boys as depicted by this illustration, children will be able to see how important this cultural understanding is.

Kostecki-Shaw won the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award in 2012 for Same, Same but Different for her work, and the book was also nominated for the Monarch Award in 2014.

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