Alex and Alex by Ziggy Hanaor

Values: Acceptance, Respect and Integrity.

I was lucky enough to be sent this beautiful book by Cicada Books Ltd... just before its release this this week! It is a lovely story about two children, both named Alex. Alex is not a boy, and Alex is not a girl. Both children have plenty of shared hobbies as well as differences and it is a great way of breaking down gender stereotypes and introducing the concept of identifying as non-binary to young children.

This bright, playful and attractive book is illustrated by Ben Javens and his style perfectly pairs with the simple yet poignant words by Ziggy Hanaor. I would use this book from Nursery right through KS1 and up into KS2 with either whole classes or individuals. I think introducing the term 'non-binary' (although it is not used in the book specifically) would come very naturally as you read the book and discussed it, if you wanted to.

The first Value I have chosen to highlight in this book is acceptance. The children accept each other for who they are - even when they have differences. They argue, like any children, but they learn to make up because they really like each other and appreciate their friendship. In the story, the children spend some time together (such as building collaboratively) and also some time doing things separately. They accept this as part of their friendship. This is a lovely book exploring acceptance as a Value as it shows that friends sometimes need to accept their differences. In my experience of teaching primary-aged pupils, this can be something that needs to be explicitly taught!

The second Value I would explore with children when reading this book is respect. This links with acceptance, of course. There are plenty of words and illustrations in the book which show how the two Alexs like different things: one Alex likes running and playing football and the other Alex prefers reading and dreaming, for example. The children respect each other's hobbies and give each other space to grow their own strengths and hobbies. Respect can be a tricky value to talk about with children as it is so abstract, but this book provides a concrete visual form with which to open up this discussion. Asking children how they can respect differences in the classroom is always valuable too. I did this before with Year 5 and we made a respect paper chain of ideas that we strung across the classroom. We referred to it when needed.

Lastly, and with older children, a third Value you could use in conjunction with this book is integrity. Integrity is a really abstract Value so any books which help teach and reinforce it are a winner in my eyes! I always explain integrity as being 'true to yourself' and 'having good morals' or 'doing the right thing when nobody is watching' with lots of examples. In this story, Alex and Alex stay true to themselves: they do not identify as a boy or a girl and this has no impact on their friendship. Furthermore, they stay true to their talents, interests and characteristics even when their best friend doesn't feel the same. Teaching integrity as a Value that needs lots of repetition in my experience. Therefore, examples of real people who have stayed true to their morals and values is just as important. People like Malala, Greta, Simone Biles all provide good role models of people who have shown integrity in their lives. I have also used this video before, which is short and sweet yet very powerful!

Of course, you could easily choose Values such as friendship, kindness, love, compassion or equality. I just chose three Values here to highlight. This is a stunning book and one that will add a great amount to all school classrooms, libraries and home bookshelves. I can imagine it will be immensely popular. It is definitely the best book I have come across that sensitively discusses the concept of being non-binary without preaching or taking away from the playful plot for children.

If you wish to follow Cicada Books Ltd, their Twitter is @cicadabooks. They have many contemporary, fun books with important moral messages. Their website can be found here. Thank you to Cicada Books for sending it to me - I'm sure many children in my school will benefit! I was under no obligation to blog, but have absolutely wanted to share this book with a wider audience ahead of publication day on the 19th August.