Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

The somewhat old-fashioned idea of having a penpal is given new meaning in Same, Same But Different.

Elliot lives in America, while Kailesh lives in India. Thanks to an art-exchange program initiated by their schools, the two boys become penpals who send each other beautifully illustrated letters with rich details about their individual lives.

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The book alternately switches between Elliot’s and Kailesh’s point of view, as the letters are sent back and forth across the oceans, and it’s interesting to compare and contrast the various aspects of their lives. Since the boys’ collage-style artworks already paint such vivid images, the simple descriptions that accompany them more than suffice. As the book progresses, we also see how, like all friendships, tentative beginnings give way to a real connection as Elliot and Kailesh get to know each other.

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In today’s global world where societies are becoming increasingly heterogeneous, with a wide mix of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities, the potential for friction between various factions can be high if there is a lack of mutual understanding. This thus is a timely book that encourages us to look past the surface differences between ourselves and “others” to see that deep down, we are more alike than we think: different, different but the same!

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