I Don’t Want to Wear a Mask!
Author: Tiffany Turner
Illustrator: Natalia Cano
Shadowcat Publishing (2020)
Reviewed by Eve Panzer, The Barefoot Librarian, for Reader Views Kids (10/2020)
We are living in a world we could never have imagined. Parents and educators are facing many challenges with their children and students. More than ever resources are needed to help navigate these unchartered waters. Often schools and public areas require mask-wearing, but for many children this is scary and bewildering. When we face difficult discussions, we often turn to books to help start the conversation. I Don’t Want to Wear a Mask! by Tiffany Turner is the perfect title to use when addressing mask-wearing requirements and the pandemic.
The author, Tiffany Turner, has been a professional educator for over twenty years. Her book reflects her experience, expertise, and knowledge as a teacher. I Don’t Want to Wear a Mask! legitimizes children’s disappointments and worries about the way their school year ended last spring and what the new school year will be like. She gives clear, concise reasons as to why mask-wearing is important.
Albert graduated from preschool last spring. But the school year did not end as he expected. Because “…something terrible happened. A virus called COVID19 spread throughout the world.” Albert’s school, like so many others, had to close and he had to finish his last year of preschool online from home. And there was no preschool graduation celebration. On the last day of online preschool Albert’s teacher told her students, “…it will be important to do as your new Kindergarten teacher says, and things will be different than they were in preschool. Most of all, you will have to wear a mask.”
Albert did not want to wear a mask. He kept saying it over and over to himself as he laid down on his bed. His mother sat down on his bed and rubbed his back soothingly. She asked why he did not want to wear a mask. Albert told her, “Because things are so different. We can’t see our friends. We can’t play outside. And most of all, I don’t want to wear a mask.”
His mother explained that sometimes we must do things we do not want to because it will help others. Wearing a mask protects others, so it is important. It prevents others in the community – like the librarian, the postal worker, and the grocery clerk – from getting the virus. His mother told him, “They will be safe because of you.” “It would be something a superhero would do to help save everyone around him.”
When Albert heard superhero, his imagination took off. He could be a ninja, a pirate, or a secret agent. A different mask, a different superhero every day of the week! His mother said, “You can save the world now. Keep everyone safe by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and staying safely away from others.” On the first day of Kindergarten Albert “…felt great walking into the classroom and meeting his new friends because they were all wearing masks too. They were all superheroes together.”
Turner does a superb job of discussing the virus without being scary. She plainly, succinctly, and factually explains why everyone must wear masks. She understands that it is best to keep it simple for this age group. We all want to keep everyone in our community safe. Brilliantly she makes mask-wearing an adventure, sparking Albert’s imagination. Wearing a mask becomes a fun game for Albert, allowing him to pretend to be some of his favorite superheroes.
The illustrations in the book are colorful and playful, helping the book to keep a lighter tone despite the gravity of the subject matter. The illustrations feel comfortable and cozy. Albert’s room is fun, with an age-appropriate space theme. The depiction of Albert wearing different masks and costumes of his favorite superheroes are lively and lighthearted. The diversity depicted in the book is found only in the student body in Albert’s Kindergarten class.
Ms. Turner’s years of experience as an educator are reflected in the superb job this book does filling a niche that is essential right now. This is a must-buy for parents and educators who have preschoolers and early elementary students in their lives. Bravo and thank you, Ms. Turner!