Cover Image: What Can I Say?

What Can I Say?

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Member Reviews

This is an excellent introduction to social behavior for younger readers. At the same time, this is a great resource for introverted or neurodiverse individuals who want to understand how general communication works when previously running into times of confusion and miscommunication. We are all different, but finding ways to communicate with each other leads to better understanding each other.
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Growing up this book would have been great to receive as a gift. Teaching kids how to make conversation with other kids, how to deal with different emotions and ways to become more involved with what’s happening around them is some topics that this great book covers. These are complex topics made simple for middle grade or even teen readers. In a entertaining format of cool drawings and short paragraphs this book will hold the attention of the reader and answer their most curious questions about themselves and their surroundings.
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This is a fantastic little book of guidelines for social situations, accompanied by cute and simple illustrations. Included in this book are lessons on how to be a good friend, how to listen, and how to be an ally, as well as express sympathy and understand empathy. Additionally, there is a guide on how to use pronouns and how to be inclusive! There’s a “pop quiz” at the end of each chapter to kind of go over what you’ve learned, which is nice. I think this is a great book to have in a middle grade library. Five stars.
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The best social skills guide for kids on shelves right now!  "What Can I Say?" covers everything from basic conversation skills to bigger issues like being a good ally and standing up to prejudice - all presented in a fun, accessible way.  The use of concrete examples (including in-person conversations, emails, texts, and even video chats) is extremely effective, and the advice is generally spot-on.  The text is full of kid-friendly humor and written in brief, easy-to-digest chunks.  Kids who aren't big readers will still learn a lot just by looking at the cartoon-like graphics, which are colorful, engaging, and wonderfully inclusive.  The book is well organized, such that kids can easily skip to the relevant section as things come up in their lives.

I particularly love the book's emphasis on bodily autonomy, consent, and not just conforming to social norms - which might seem odd for a social skills book, but the focus here is really getting along with people, being true to yourself, and making the world a better place, rather than arbitrary rules.  In a few places the author specifically says not to follow her suggestions if they make you feel uncomfortable, such as making eye contact when you meet someone.  (I do think more space could have been devoted to explicitly addressing neurodiverse readers, but on the other hand, the book is definitely written to be as universal as possible - many autistic kids will undoubtedly find this book helpful, but it's equally applicable to neurotypical kids.)  Topics like setting boundaries and saying "no" politely but firmly are also specifically discussed.  I think page 93 says it best, in the section on romantic relationships: "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" section (p102) - so many young people are going to feel so affirmed and seen upon reading that it's really okay not to date if you're not interested or ready.  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 that kids need to see.  Both the queer kids and the straight/cis kids, too!  I also love the repeated affirmation of the reader, such as on p84, "Relationships sometimes change, but you are still lovable and loved."  For such a fun, light-hearted book, there are sure a lot of great messages packed in here.

Lastly, one of the most unique things about this book is the inclusion of the final 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 these sections were required reading for every human.  In fact, I kind of want to hand out copies of the "how to respond to an offensive joke" section to everyone I know!  Things like making protest signs, introducing yourself with gender pronouns, and disrupting microaggressions are truly important skills for kids to be learning these days, and they're all discussed here in simple, age-appropriate terms.

As an educator and child advocate, I highly recommend this book for elementary and middle school kids (and honestly for teens and adults too, even if we’re maybe not quite the intended audience).  This is a guide that kids and families will find themselves turning to again and again as they navigate the challenges and joys of growing up.
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What Can I Say? by Catherine Newman, 160 pages. NONFICTION. Storey Publishing, 2020. $17.
Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G
Words are hard, especially when you’re having a new kind of conversation. It’s okay to be nervous about talking with others, and Newman helps make it easier by giving suggestions of what to do in situations like meeting someone new, apologizing, asking someone out, talking about pronouns, and more.
Newman encourages readers to improve their communication starting from where they are. Not everything suggested here needs to be applied right now; the tips are here for when readers are ready to use them and work to improve their skills. While targeted to a younger audience, adults can even learn from this book. I loved being reminded how simple communication really is.
Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen
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A powerful and helpful guide for ages 10 and up. Eight chapters take readers through different situations as they interact with others. Here’s the lineup:


What makes this manual unique is the take that no two kids are alike. Individuals develop and use their communication skills in different ways. The same goes with the way they learn.

Many kids don’t have a trustworthy adult to talk with or may not be comfortable bringing up these topics. The easy to read book would be a perfect jumping off point for a classroom discussion. These skills are ones that will be useful throughout life.

Colorful illustrations support the text and are often humorous. Adult readers will be wishing they had the book available in their tween and teen years.

WHAT CAN I SAY? It’s terrific!
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Kids in middle grade school often find it difficult to communicate or what to do in new situations.   She discusses the basic social goals including manners indirectly.  How to say hi to someone new, what to do about prejudice, how to be an ally and be supportive are only a few of the different social skills she talks about.  She gives examples of  what to do and what not to do.  The author has done an excellent job of explaining skills I would not even consider social skills — just good manners.  The art is friendly and funny.  Fogg did an excellent job as the art goes perfectly with book.  So many people are only communicating on their cell phones so when they meet an actual person, they may not know what to say or have forgotten because it’s been so long not sure what to do.  This happens even at home.  I like the author’s common sense and how she lets you know it is okay to be yourself.  This book is important to read regardless of your age.
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Wow. Wow. Wow. I love this book. These are the things that often go untaught and kids are expected to just figure out all on their own. This book lays out how to engage with other people in a respectful, confident and clear way. I wish I had this book when I was young. I wish the fellow adults in my life would read this book now! Social interactions can be so difficult, especially as a young person, and this book addresses those challenges with clarity and humor. It makes interactions that can be scary and confusing approachable. I will be gifting this to the children in my life. I just loved it. So useful and thoughtful and sweet. It reminded me of the American Girl book “The Care and Keeping of Me” in format and tone. Though this is modern and inclusive and addresses different subject matter that I don’t often see covered in this way. This is a wonderful book.
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What Can I Say? an illustrated guide with short, accessible tidbits of useful information to help kids with communication across multiple topics and issues. I do wish there was more depth to many of the conversation-based topics and less info on how to volunteer or be a good neighbor  or make a protest sign (those are all good things, but maybe for a different book?)

For instance, I love that she included an example of something to say when your racist uncle makes an offensive joke, but it felt incomplete. I would have liked an additional panel or twelve on how to continue the conversation when said racist uncle doubles down. Racist Uncle Joe isn't going to just accept your one-off truth bomb and stop being an asshole. 

I do think this would be a good addition to any elementary school classroom or library and can serve as a good jumping off point for larger conversations. I'd say the audience is tweens and younger -- my 13-year-old thought the information provided was useful, but that the presentation was "cringey".
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Social Skills for Kids

This book is full of simple cartoon-like drawings with text bubbles and uses language kids can understand. I thought there were some helpful tips. 

The chapter headings are:
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

Parents might want to be aware that it uses God’s name in vain, it addresses LGBTQ issues like relationships and coming out, and also kids choosing to be a different gender than the one from birth.

Thanks to NetGalley for a temporary digital copy to use for my review.
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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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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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