Zero by Kathryn Otoshi
My daughter and I loved Kathryn Otoshi’s book about bullying, One. So when we saw that the library also had her book Zero, we thought we’d read it, too. I think I liked Zero even better than One because its message is about accepting yourself the way you are and how everyone is important, everyone can be a part of something even if you think otherwise.
The number Zero is big and round, but she feels empty inside because there is a hole right in the middle of her. She wants to count with the numbers—which, by the way, are the same colors from the previous book, making this one an effective sequel!—but since she thinks she’s not worth anything she can’t have fun counting with the rest of the numbers. She especially wants to be like number One, who looks bold and solid with strong strokes of color and corners rather than the roundness that Zero has.
Zero even tries to be something she’s not in order to count. She tries to change herself into a One, then an Eight and a Nine, but of course, it doesn’t work. She desperately wants to be anything other than herself and it just rings so true of so many children who want to be someone else.
Then she actually tries to impress the rest of the numbers, thinking that will help—and who hasn’t been there? Instead of impressing them with her speed, of course she runs right into them, which only makes her sadder. She feels like she is worth nothing.
Then, as she professes she will never count or have value, Seven—the bully from the previous book!—tells her that every number has value and that it’s what’s inside that counts. Seven tells Zero to be open, and that she will find a way. As soon as Zero sees herself differently—as open rather than empty—she suddenly realizes her value. She stands next to the numbers and helps them count more by adding herself, saying, “If we help each other soar, we can count even more!”
Once again, Oteshi uses such simple yet delightful concepts to help children understand that each and every one of them has worth, has value—and sometimes we just need to look at things a little differently in order to really understand them. That’s actually a good lesson that adults could really use, too.