why we’re loving Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

We spent over 2 months in the US this summer and found ourselves visiting the local library several times a week. Having access to so many beautiful children’s books (in English) was such a treat for this little Tokyo family and we fell in love with a range of new authors, illustrators, and characters. But out of all those books, the one we *had* to buy as soon as we got home was Not Quite Narwhal. 

The illustrations are adorable, but that’s not the only reason we love it. Sima’s sweet story follows Kelp, a little unicorn growing up surrounded by narwhals, as he explores what it means to look and feel different. He spends a brief but thrilling day amongst unicorns – they’re just like him! – before returning to his home under the sea. Little Kelp is torn between these two parts of himself, feeling a sense of belonging in both the narwhal and the unicorn worlds. Of course, there is a happy ending (and a bit of a giggle on the back cover) and our kiddo delights over Kelp’s little adventure every time we read it.

It’s a lovely book for any collection, but I especially love the way it brings children along with Kelp as he explores his identity. There are a million ways that a kid might look or feel different from their peers and Not Quite Narwhal offers great examples of friends who not only accept, but also celebrate those differences. Children’s books that model open-mindedness and offer a route for further conversation without beating kids over the head with a lesson on morality always feel the most effective, and this one definitely hits that note.

I don’t think the kiddo draws any connection between himself and Kelp, but I can’t help seeing them in the same light. I’ve been feeling a little concerned that he’s a unicorn trying to make the most of life under the sea here in Japan. Since his world is completely in English outside of school, he seems more confident and comfortable to me when he gets to interact that way. My over-anxious momma eyes catch every awkward moment and hear each fumbled Japanese sentence. As silly as it may sound, Kelp helps to remind me that these are just minor stumbles on the kiddo’s learning curve for finding his place – and that a happy ending is just as likely for him as it was for our little unicorn friend.

If you haven’t read this book, I’d definitely recommend it. Maybe add it to your Christmas lists?
kuri xx

Leave a Reply