Cover Image: What Can I Say?

What Can I Say?

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Member Reviews

What Can I Say?: A Kid's Guide to Super-Useful Social Skills to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself; Speak Up, Speak Out, Talk about Hard Things, and Be a Good Friend by Catherine Newman is a great resource for kids and families. This book has a fun, engaging format that makes it easy for kids to pick up and read. The book actually deals with quite a few social topics. I think this book would be great for kids of many ages, with parental support and guidance. I read parts of it along with my son and I found that to be the perfect format so we could discuss the book's contents. I particularly liked the quizzes at the end of each chapter because they reinforced the concepts in a silly way. I don't think this is a book to be read through all at once. Rather, use the table of contents wisely to address issues with your child as they come up. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher with no obligations. These opinions are entirely my own.
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This book is absolutely fantastic in so many ways - but unfortunately it falls short in a few critical places.

First, I was very taken aback by the note at the beginning (p13) which states that the book is trying to be inclusive, but in the very next sentence says that it will use "conventional he and she pronouns" while also acknowledging "we understand that some folks are nonbinary."  What, we understand these mythical nonbinary people might exist but we don't care about them enough to drop an occasional they/them pronoun in an entire 160-page book??  Honestly it might have been better just to not bring up this point at all - since so much of the book is first-person dialogue, pronouns aren't even used very much in reference to the characters, and where pronouns are used to refer to a hypothetical person the author does in fact use they/them pronouns! (e.g. on p23, "You don't need to act ... like they have a weird name." and on p26, "...you can help them feel calm and relaxed just by being friendly.")  So why this off-putting, cis-normative introduction that immediately signals to non-binary folks that they are somehow weird or less-than??  It's so incongruent with the inclusive tone of the rest of the book - I really hope there's a chance this will be edited before publication.

In addition, given that a guide like this would be extremely useful to neurodivergent folks, I feel like more attention could have been paid to not using confusing figures of speech (or at least explaining them as needed).  Sidebars that specifically address common experiences of neurodivergence would have been great to see too (e.g. elaborating on that offhanded comment about eye contact and reassuring kids it's okay not to do something that's physically painful to them, or providing tips for how to tell what your friend might be feeling in the empathy section).  There were also some attempts at humor that seemed likely to be more confusing than helpful (e.g. on p19, "awkward parade float wave" or on p30, "for extra awkwardness, you can extend your first for a bump just as someone is leaning in to hug you" -- why not just tell kids its fine to wave to someone in a store, or fine to offer a high-five or fist bump when you decline a hug?).  More than once, I was aware of having to "read between the lines" to understand the book's meaning, and that's not helpful to anyone in a how-to guide like this.

More generally, some of the writing seemed unnecessarily confusing or wordy (e.g. on p128, "And while that feeling might typically be a sign that something about what you're doing is wrong, in this case, it's usually a sign that you're doing good work." -- why not just, "And while that feeling might typically mean something is wrong, in this case it usually means you're doing good work.", or on p145, "Most of the rest of this book is about your immediate community, but here..." -- why not, "Most of this book is about your immediate community, but here...").  Again, especially considering accessibility for diverse audiences, I felt like more effort could have been made to ensure the book was written clearly.

HOWEVER, with all of that said - this book is absolutely wonderful in many ways too.  The advice given is spot-on and presented in a fun, humorous, easy-to-digest format.  The book is well organized, such that kids could easily skip to the relevant section as things come up in their lives.  The use of concrete examples - including in-person conversations, emails, texts, and video chat - is extremely effective.  Kids who aren't big readers will still get a lot out of it just by looking at the graphics, which are colorful, engaging, and wonderfully inclusive.  And much of the text is great as well, with some truly silly humor that kids will appreciate.

A major highlight for me was the last two sections, "How to Be An Ally" and "How to Care for Your Community".  Honestly I think the book's subtitle should have been "A Kid's Guide to Super-Useful Social Skills to Get Along, Express Yourself, and Change the World".  The world would be a better place if those sections were required reading for every human!  In fact, I want to print out the "how to respond to an offensive joke" section and give it to everyone I know.

(I do think pronouns should have been brought up in the introductions section of Chapter 1 though; again it feels very off-putting to see this simply addressed with "See page X for gender-inclusive introductions" in a side note.  Like, we only need to worry about being gender inclusive some of the time, as an afterthought?  Instead, I would have included at least one example here that models stating your name and pronouns, and added a footnote to see the later section if you're not familiar with the idea of gender pronouns - which many kids these days absolutely are.)

Another thing I loved was the repeated affirmation of the reader, which started around the middle of the book (e.g. on p84, "Relationships sometimes change, but you are still loveable and loved.").  Emphasis on bodily autonomy, being true to yourself, and setting appropriate boundaries are SO important in a book like this, and those were all mentioned.  I think page 93 says it best: "If someone asks you out on a date and you don't want to go? You never, ever have to. Your job is to be your most authentic self - not to please other people."  If that's the only message kids retain from this book, it would be well worth it!  I also wanted to stand up and cheer for the "How to NOT be in a Romantic Relationship" page (p102) - so many young people are going to feel so affirmed and seen upon reading that section.  And inclusivity is woven into many of the examples and illustrations without making a big deal out of it - no need to explain that boys can date boys and girls can date girls, or what it means to be trans, but showing two feminine-presenting characters asking each other out, and a kid saying "I want you to call me Asher instead of Ashley", are exactly the kinds of representation kids need to see.  Both the queer kids and the straight/cis kids, too.

Overall, I am extremely conflicted about this book.  It gets so many things so right, but it also really falls short of the inclusivity it aspires to in a few critical places.  I'm just going to hope this ARC isn't the final version, that maybe a few judicious edits will still be made before publication... and if not, I may just have to wait for a second edition before I feel comfortable recommending this to the young people I know.
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After finishing this read, all i could think of is how different my relationship with myself and others would have taken a better turn if I was exposed to such a read as a child. A quite informative up to date guide written in a simplistic style that is accessible to readers from different age ranges. It tackles different essential topics that advocate for coexistence, tolerance and harmony between people. Definitely, a work that’s worth giving a try.
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Catherine Newman's inviting and winsome presentation make this a book that will engage readers. The colorful graphics and occasional humor add additional value to the presentation. I gave her previous book How to be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You're Grown Up 5 stars. There were some fabulous tips for kids in that first book that are often overlooked in modern education. While there was a plethora of useful tips in this one, I also found some content that would be of concern for families with a biblical worldview. This would be a great book for kids to work through with a parent or trusted adult.

Thank you to Storey Publishing and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
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As a therapist who often works with preteens, this book will make an amazing addition to my resource list and to my office bookshelf for bibliotherapy purposes.  Can't wait for this to be published so I can purchase a hard copy!
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What Can I Say? by Catherine Newman was so much fun to read with my thirteen-year-old. It presents kids with valuable social skills (as the subtitle says, "to Help You Get Along and Express Yourself; Speak Up, Speak Out, Talk about Hard Things, and Be a Good Friend"). These are challenging things to master during a time of raging hormones, social changes, and increasing academic demands, even in non-pandemic times. But now, after two years of Covid, this book couldn’t have come at a better time. The icing on the cake was the humor, the gentleness, and the very teenager-approved cute, whimsical illustrations by Debbie Fong.
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I've heard over and over from teachers and parents that Covid-19 has really affected social skills and acerbated emotional issues.  Good social skills will lead to lead connections with peers and others, thereby helping diminish these problems.  The four behavior questions alone will help enormously.  I like that this book gives brief examples of good social behavior and also uses humor to discuss situations that still can even make adults uncomfortable.  Purchasing a copy.
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I received an advance ebook via Netgalley.

<i>What Can I Say?</i> is a full-color graphical book for middle graders, providing basic guidance on social interactions and dilemmas in a way that is progressive and fully inclusive. The attitude of the book is stated forthrightly at the beginning: "Learning how to be more kind, gracious, expressive, compassionate, responsible, respectful, and authentic in your interactions is going to make the world a better place, filled with happier people. Plus, it's going to help you yourself in a million ways." There's also no pressure to do things one right way. "Normal is not even a thing, and everyone doesn't have to be the same kind of person." As the parent of an autistic teenager, I also appreciated  the brief mention that readers might be autistic or shy or have social anxiety.

The book is divided into numerous fast-to-read chapters: How to meet, greet, and part; how to have a conversation; how to get along with people; how to deal with hard things; how to be in a romantic relationship (or not); how to be supportive; how to be an ally; how to care for your community. The book is current and helpful by mentioning that some readers or their friends might identify as nonbinary or gay, and how to handle things like learning pronouns, and how to stand up for causes that are right. The illustrations throughout are such a joy, and do include kids who are gay and even doing very contemporary things like talking by video chat. Some especially awkward situations are addressed, too, like how to speak up politely if a relative is making racist jokes. These are things kids have to deal with every day and often feel so alone.

This is the kind of book that will save lives by letting kids know that they are seen, that they matter, that their voices deserve to be heard.
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I received a NetGalley copy in exchange for an honest review

this help guide to social anxiety is pure gold. I regret not having had it when I was younger. While a little out of depth for reception or kindergarten it would make perfect use for young adults and could also work for parents and teachers as well. light enough to follow and understand.
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I received an electronic ARC from Storey Publishing through NetGalley.
Newman offers clear information on communication for middle grade readers up to adults. These 50 social skills are critical to living a well rounded life. The language and illustrations support and explain each area of communication and move far beyond the verbal. The author addresses simpler ways to communicate and moves to far more complex communication decisions. 
A terrific book for family dialogue and growth.
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I loved the way this book tackles awkward situations. I am eager to hand it over to my pre-teen to help prepare her for junior high and high school. The illustrations are eye-catching, engaging, and helpful! The topics are clear, concise, and relatable. The organization and table of contents make the book easy to navigate. I learned a lot and I have a feeling I'll be coming back to this one often in the future. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for an advanced review copy. All opinions are my own!
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Really liked this book. The accessible way that pertinent issues were discussed make it ideal for research, self help or guidance.

I would say that it's suitable for all ages, abilities and confidence levels. Offering tips, scenarios and scripts is ideal for neurotypical and neurodiverse. Even if you're the most clued up person socially or struggle 1:1 or in groups, you will gain something from reading a chapter or two. 

Helpfully themes/issues are set out clearly in chapters, meaning you don't have to read the whole book taking notes to have a decent summary on a topic. Not all the scenarios met the mark, but that's to be expected, nor am I the target audience. But that said it tackles well the fundementals of new situations, what to say, when to say it and how to be comfortable being you.

Forgot to say that I got this via NetGalley and the formatting was pants even in the NetGalley app. That was probably the most annoying part of reading this book.
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Good books for adolescents especially because as they are discovering themselves, there are many questions that would go through their minds. I wish I had a similar book when I was growing up. Great book!
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I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My 6 years old really enjoyed this book- a communication book on how to address the difficult topics, stand up for yourself, and how to be a good understanding friend. She particularly enjoyed the chapter on what to say during embarrassing situations.
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I feel like every child should have a copy of this book. You see a lot of books targeted at younger children but I have never come across one like this. It is so colourful and imaginative and breaks down emotions in such an easy and understandable way. The pictures are fantastic and the little quizzes throughout are a lovely addition.
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This fantastic guide to social skills is perfectly pitched for the target audience of children aged 10+ With bright, humourous graphics and a warm, conversational tone throughout, it is an absolutely perfect 'how to' guide for a number of highly relevant topics including getting along with people, dealing with hard things, being an ally and caring for your community. The 4 step 'behaviour test' is something I can imagining displaying in a classroom to encourage self awareness among my pupils and the level of effort made throughout the book to be genuinely inclusive and supportive of every young person as they develop their social skills was really wonderful to see. I will definitely be buying a copy when it's published later this year! 
Thanks to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Some readers may be disappointed by Newman's generous interpretation of social skills. Unlike more traditional self-help books that focus solely on individual growth, WHAT CAN I SAY? links this to collective well-being. I especially appreciate the emphasis on boundaries and consent, and supporting others in the way that's most helpful for them. Kudos for affirming different ways of being, not just IN the world, but OF it.
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Social skills are very important to learn at an early age. And what time is good as middle school. It is the basis and foundation of all relationships.

What made this book unique for me is that it gives tools that I wish I had at an early age. Nowadays we have social media where people can be very cruel to others. It all begins at an early age, which is why it is suiting that kids learn as early as possible as well.

 In What Can I Say?,Catherine Newman, author of the bestseller How to Be a Person, however in this book she gives children guidance and instruction to help them establish and maintain meaningful relationships and effective communication with friends, teachers, family members, and others in their communities.

This book gives guidance in the right things to say. I’d say, it teaches kids to be sensitive and assertive when it comes to different situations they may find themselves in.

The illustrations will make it user friendly for children, because it makes it relatable and firendly. And what a great way to learn with a bit of humor.

We live in a digital Era, where people can be so cruel on social media, this book gives children tools to deal with situations like that more.

I like this book because it teaches good communication skills to children. And it is children friendly in terms of pictures, it makes it interesting to read and learn. What I also loved is that it also touches the topic of bullying which is an issue that really needs to be addressed
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Such a wonderful guide for being able to talk to each other in a kind manner as middle school students. I had to put this on my order list as soon as I finished it. I loved that it was written as a graphic novel format with all the visual of what the scene of the conversation would look like. 

Thank you so much to @netgalley and @CatherineNewman for this advanced reader's copy for an honest review.
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Full review closer to publication date!

I'd like to thank the publisher, Storey Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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