★★★★★ What I Tell Myself FIRST, written by Michael A. Brown and illustrated by Zoe Ranucci, is a guided picture book for young readers that focuses on building self-esteem. Each page has a main mantra presented in bolded text, such as “Before I do anything, I must think first.” Supporting text underneath the mantra expands on each key idea, providing added material for discussion between children and their parents or educators. The book also allows space for personalization in the form of fill-in-the-blank responses to phrases like “A lie is,” which allows readers to examine their own beliefs and ultimately become more comfortable handling complicated ideas like truth, beauty, and self-love.
Based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, What I Tell Myself FIRST is a novel approach to a perennial need for younger reading materials that teach confidence and self-reliance. Whereas other books seek to educate with uplifting, if lofty, calls for general positivity, Brown’s book offers concrete and achievable methods towards moving up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which takes readers past the need for personal esteem and into self-actualization. A chart illustrating Maslow’s work appears at the back of the book to help children visualize this key psychological concept. Ranucci accompanies Brown’s text with gorgeous, lively illustrations of diverse children and their goofy pet dogs and cats. The pairing of words and pictures is so strong that any single page could easily stand on its own, serving as an inspirational poster for the bedroom or classroom. Whether you know a child who is struggling to accept themselves, or could just use a supportive reminder, this book is a perfect fit.