Have you ever come across a book that is great but also not so great? And it’s this way for a few reasons, but a lot of it ultimately comes down to interpretation? I feel like Claire Alexander’s A Little Bit Different has a beautiful message that’s important but also has so many different possible interpretations that the message she intended to send might not actually be the one her readers receive. And this is really where everything falls apart.
Alright, so the general message this book is trying to send is that being different is good. We should celebrate our differences. We should be accepting of others who are different. And just because someone isn’t like you or the people you know best doesn’t mean they aren’t good or worth talking to. The premise follows a bunch of creatures called Ploofers. They all “ploof” out grey smoke.
Except one day, one Ploofer ploofs out rainbow smoke.
As can unfortunately be very common in our world, all the other Ploofers become very judgmental of the rainbow Ploofer. They ignore him, they treat him poorly, etc. That is, they do so until one Ploofer takes an interest in the rainbow Ploofer and gets to know him. As more Ploofers become more accepting, more Ploofers start to “ploof” out colors other than grey.
So, generally, you can say that the message is a good one. Be accepting and the world will be full of rainbows. Where it runs into issues is when you break it down and compare it to real world scenarios. Let’s say the differences are skin colors. Well, you can’t exactly change your skin color (and when you can it’s not always a great thing), so…the fact that all the Ploofers later end up “ploofing” out different colors when they were grey to begin with doesn’t quite add up.
It also just sends a weird message. It’s not like we would ever want to encourage the majority race to become the minority races. That would obviously be a very big problem.
But okay, let’s step back now and say that it’s not about skin color. Let’s say it’s about culture. Or ideas and thought. This, for me, is the best interpretation. I love the idea that a group of people who all think similarly (the grey smoke) can be influenced to develop and change their thinking by meeting someone who thinks differently (rainbow smoke). As any developing person knows, you can remain stuck in your own way of thinking when you are surrounded by like minded people. But, when you open yourself up to new experiences and people who have different ideas, you gain a wonderful opportunity to grow yourself.
Suddenly you see all these different ways of thinking on the page before you. You see how meeting different people can influence who you are, can make you better. No longer are you in a bubble rehashing the same ideas over and over again with the same people. Now you are learning and growing. Both you, those you know currently, and the world as a whole is better for it. It is this interpretation that I think Claire was going for. The unfortunate thing is that not everyone is picking up on it.
Honestly, I think the colored smoke was a brilliant idea for this book. I especially loved how easily it was for me to liken the smoke to thought bubbles. The Ploofers are absolutely adorable from start to finish. Though the colors do not stick out initially, the book as a whole grows more and more beautiful and engaging as you continue reading.
I wish that Alexander had been a little bit more clear somewhere about this being more about differences in thought than differences in appearance. Also, I find it a bit silly that there was only one Ploofer who ploofed out smoke that wasn’t grey. As if there is only one person who thinks differently enough to influence another person. This book may have been a lot better if the rainbow Ploofer knew others similar to him or was traveling from one Ploofer town to the next–say the first had been yellow, the second red, etc–changing thoughts as he went.
All in all, this was definitely what I would consider a respectable attempt to send this message. I do think that it could be interpreted differently and may need some clarification. It’s definitely a book I would want to use to start a conversation rather than one I would simply leave to be interpreted by a child on their own.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.