Better Than You – Perfect Picture Book

Better Than You

Trudy Ludwig, Author

Adam Gustavson, Illustrator

Alfred A. Knopf, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Kindergarten and up (Ages 5 and up)

Themes:  Bragging, Pride, Self-esteem, Friendship, Interpersonal relationships

Opening/SynopsisMy neighbor Jake can be a real jerk – always letting me know that whatever I do, he can do better.  Don’t get me wrong.  Jake is great at practically everything he does — especially sports.  Me?  Not so much.  I mean, I know I’m good at writing stories and playing the guitar, but when it comes to basketball, I have to practice a lot just to be a decent player.  Tyler’s friend Jake continually boasts about his abilities, making Tyler feel bad about himself.  It isn’t until Tyler’s Uncle Kevin compares Jake to a “pufferfish” that blow up its bodies to make themselves bigger than they are.  A new neighbor, Niko, helps Tyler see that Jake is the one with the problem.  Niko has the same problem with Jake.  Both boys become fast friends and really learn that friendships are supportive and encouraging.   Although the boys try to include Jake, he rejects their invitation.  Unfortunately there is no tidy ending, as Jake doesn’t know how to change.

Trudy Ludwig is the author of seven books centered around sensitive issues children face at school.   Her books are favorites among teachers and parents.  She has received the Mom’s Choice Gold Award.  She’s an active member of the International Bullying Prevention Association.  Adam Gustavson’s illustrations are rich, colorful and full of emotion.  He beautifully captures the feelings of the characters.

What I like about this book:  There seems to be an attitude growing among kids.  Some call it boasting, arrogance and lack of empathy.  It has fostered a generation of kids that are insensitive to the feelings of others.  They brag about their achievements, possessions and grades.  The list is endless.  Ludwig’s book sheds light on an ever-growing problem among kids today.   Self-worth is at the center of the problem and children should feel good about themselves because of their inner qualities and not their accomplishments.

Activity: You don’t need to look any further than this book, because there is a wealth of information for parents and teachers written by an expert in the Foreword of the book, and in the Author’s Note About Bragging and Boasting in the back pages.  She gives suggestions to help children turn painful encounters into positive life lessons.  And, she has a Questions for Discussion section for parents and the classroom.   She also includes a list of Recommended Books for Adults, so they can work with their children.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

53 thoughts on “Better Than You – Perfect Picture Book

  1. What a great lesson to teach kids at school. My son is only 6 and already I’m noticing or hearing things I don’t like the sound of from the playground. You’ve got to teach them good qualities early. They’re can’t always be an adult there to step in, so it’s great for kids to know how to deal with all sorts. Thanks Pat.

    • Catherine, we live in an increasingly competitive world. Unfortunately that translates to kids and takes so many forms. Teaching begins at home and continues at school. And, I agree it would be great to teach a kid how to deal with an issues like this. And, to teach your child not to brag. Thanks for your comment.

  2. This book sounds wonderful and much needed. It’s very true what you say about kids today feeling like they need to broadcast their achievements – like everything is a competition. I love that so many resources are included right in the book. Thanks for sharing this one, Pat. (And I posted your link.)

    • Susanna, glad you liked the book. I think it is an important topic for kids today. I think we can begin young teaching kids about “having to best,” but it also makes you wonder what is making the kid feel like they have to brag. The world our kids live in is competitive. It’s such an important to address at home and school.

  3. This feels like it would really hit the mark for upper elementary kids, which is an age I often see real one-up-manship manifesting strongly. This insensitivity to others is a huge problem, as you say, Pat and it is great to see how well this is addressed in this book. It is also good for children to read some books without ‘perfect’ endings! Great resource. Thank you, Pat.

    • Joanna, I agree. I saw this book for older elementary kids, even though the book has a younger age on it. But, it doesn’t hurt to start teaching young kids at home. Kids are very insensitive to other’s feelings. On the flip side, we don’t know what was impacting Jake self-esteem to make him brag. I really liked how this book didn’t have a perfect ending. The two boys understood what was going on, but still tried to be a friend to Jake. Jake walked away and refused to have anything to do with them. He had to be best.

  4. I know people who are like Jake. I think they boast because they barely have self-esteem (or not have any at all). They may “have” to brag to make themselves feel better or MAYBE they really DO believe are the best. The book seems kind of sad. Here’s a coincedence – we both had books to do with self-esteem!

    • Erik, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think self-esteem is is at the core of Jake’s bragging. I knew some one who grew up in a very competitive family, and they were always competing against each other — including the parents. The book is sad, but sometimes not everything has a perfect ending.

    • Christie, when I read a book I like and know it’s not it the library, I ask them to order the book. So far, everything I’ve requested is ordered. Tracy Ludwig is an excellent children’s author. I happened to find this one in our library. And, it is also a relatively new release. Sometimes it takes a while to reach a library. I keep a stack of library suggestion forms on my desk at home, and fill them out when I find a book I think should be among the collection.

  5. Oh I work with coworkers that could benefit from reading a book like this. All they do is boast and shine themselves on and tout their own greatness. I get disgusted by it has they possess not a shred of humility. It’s all geared toward one thing, to make you think that they are better than you. It’s why I hate people so much.

    • Michael — I love your remarks. You’re so honest. I’ve had the same experiences. And, unfortunately many of these adults have kids. So what are the kids learning — it must carry into family life. How can’t kids live up to what mom and dad expect or their greatness. Thus a cycle begins because of low self-esteem. It’s a very complex issue that I see getting worse because we are a competitive society. Thanks for your comments.

    • Leigh, glad you liked the selection. I don’t know, but it feels like kids aren’t respectful of teachers. It must begin at home. But, I know when my daughter was in middle grade, I was shocked by the lack of respect kids showed each other and teachers. I did a whole series last summer on virtues and reviewed a lot of good books. Elementary school teachers have a chance.

  6. Pat, this seems like a great story- I always love your book choices! You made an excellent point earlier- teaching has to be at home and at school and i think there is often too much of a disconnect there. Kids need to find their own strengths and be proud of them without bragging- not an easy lesson to teach. I have to say that I like that there is no tidy ending here; some people don’t know how to, or don’t care to, change.

    • Yes, Tracy I agree. I was glad there was no tidy ending, because Jake didn’t care about changing. Still feel that there is a huge issue of self-esteem with kids who have to boast. Something in their lives has created this craving to brag. We are so competitive as a society — and that doesn’t help. Thanks for your thoughtful words.

  7. Tracy Ludwig is a wondrous writer. She fills the pages with her genius. I love it! I will check this out immediately.

    Teaching is all done here at home. We homeschool. Although I am not against public education. It’s just that for us homeschooling was definitely the way to go.

    I was filled with low self esteem when young and never want my children to be that way. Excellent choice. *waving and smiling*

  8. Great book choice Pat….. I like Tracy Bermeo’s comment, There being a disconnect and quoting you about teaching has to begin at home and at school. Well that’s it! I have to get some Tracy Ludwig books and have a session at the library reading some, thanks to Robyns comment. I have to admit I do love the way this is written, the voice is typical young boy and from within his mind….. like she has been sitting inside his head. Must get this and others to look at her style. Thanks Pat, excellent choice.

    • Diane, I love her style. And, you can learn a lot by reviewing several of an author’s book. I think as a society we have become to competitive and goal- oriented, thus creating low self-esteem if they don’t feel they measure up. Kids have a very high bar today.

  9. I sometimes wonder if the culture of testing and relying so heavily on the results is affecting how children perceive themselves and judge others. In order to see themselves as having worth, they need to display all of their achievements for all to see and make sure they’re viewed as top of the pack. Just a thought. An excellent book recommendation once again, Pat!

    • Heather, I think that is another piece that plays into it. We are so competitive, and kids are finding self-worth outside of themselves rather within themselves. It’s so sad. Look how parents book and organize every moment of their kids lives. We need a balance. Glad you liked the book. Wanted to target an age group a little older. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Hi Pat, I really like your choice this week for PPBF. I think you are right about a lack of empathy for some kids. I think it goes into the adult world too. So many people just don’t care about other people. It’s very sad. I like that you added that Trudy Ludwig has written about other sensitive children’s issues. I will have to look her and her books up. I think that books like this are perfect to teach younger children about caring and treating each other with kindness. Great review. I look forward to your choices each Friday as they are very well thought out and interesting.

    • Loni, I really appreciate your comments and compliment. I always look forward to your selection on Fridays. So glad you liked the choice as I thought it a perfect message for kids. Love Ludwig’s books. I have some books written by an author I already reviewed last summer, that I think you would love the artwork and messages. The artist is so creative.

  11. Thanks so much for this book recommendation, Pat. I really like finding picture books that speak to a little bit older child. I have a 9yo boy and I do think a book like this would be great for him.

  12. I’ve always believed that children (and adults) who have “true” self-esteem do not have a need to brag or boast…the braggers and boasters and bullies are usually the ones who have a poor self-image and don’t see much value in themselves…therefore, they need to put others down to feel better about themselves…but they don’t anyway. 😦

    Thank you, Pat! What a great book…and series of books…for parents and teachers. The problem starts REALLY early…and again, since parents are the first and most influential role models early on, it is crucial that they realize that…young children are ultra-observant and will key into our moods, attitudes and expressions, even when we don’t think they are watching and listening. A book like this would be a wonderful springboard for open discussions in family or school settings.

    • Thank you Vivian for you great comment. Couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately, it is a big problem. I would love to see a book like this in every school library or classroom! It’s a great book for teachers to use when situations arise.

  13. How sad that Jake doesn’t know how to change. This is another book I want to read with my kids. It deals with such an important problem that they are sure to face in the coming years (and even now). Thanks for introducing me to this book.

    • Margaret, I’m glad that you liked the selection and want to read it to your kids. I have a number of books with important messages that I make sure my granddaughter reads several times a year. Kids really have a tought time today.

  14. Another great choice, Pat! I’m kind of terrified about what kids face from their peers today, so it’s good to know there are plenty of books out there that address the issues. 🙂

    • Glad you liked the choice, Renee. It is especially hard for kids today with such a huge variety issues with their peers. Some kids just have to be better than… I’m glad there are more books around subjects like this for kids. Should be in the classrooms. Thanks for visiting.

  15. I think that this picture book manages to touch on quite a number of important and sensitive issues and topics that are not as thoroughly discussed as they should be. Another lovely review, Pat. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Hi Patricia- I just found your blog and greatly appreciate your review of my book BETTER THAN YOU. My goal with all my stories is to help children cope and thrive in their social world. Thank you for taking the time to review my story. All my best, Trudy Ludwig

    • Trudy,
      What a lovely surprise. Thank you for stopping. Those who commented really liked your book. I just picked up Trouble Talk, My Secret Bully and Just Kidding. Will evenutally review them all over time. Your books are great for kids, and you are helping children cope and thrive in their social world. Your books are perfect for my blog theme. Again thank you for stopping.

      • My absolute pleasure, Patricia. And thank you for your kind words about my stories and letting others know about them. I would be happy to personally send you my next book, THE INVISIBLE BOY, when it is officially released in fall 2013. It’s about intentional and unintentional exclusion. Feel free to email me your contact info.


  17. Pingback: My Secret Bully « Children's Books Heal

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