Nothing Alike is the debut picture book for author Zewlan Moor. It cleverly tells the story of a white boy who cannot distinguish between two classmates of Asian origin – a significant challenge for people from diverse backgrounds. There’s a whole hashtag, #sorrywrongasian, devoted to the awkward mix ups that happen when people from one background assume that people from another background ‘all look alike’.
The narrator here is Reuben, who is observing his friends Esme and Eunwoo, illustrated as having Asian appearance. They have the same hair. They’re short. In fact, when they’re in school uniforms he really can’t tell them apart. But as he begins to give it more thought, he reflects on the things that ARE different, like their hobbies and their favourite things. He even notices that Eunwoo has kind eyes while Esme has a rounder face. When he takes the time to respectfully consider his friends’ unique qualities, he realises he can, of course, tell the girls apart. There is a twist in the tail, however, when Reuben’s friend Owen makes a similar #sorrywrongasian assumption. The girls turn the tables with a cheeky dig at how similar the two boys look too!
Peter Cheong’s illustrations bring a terrific schoolyard energy to this story, with plenty of movement as characters tumble through the classroom, the bag rack zone or the playground. Quirky details around lunch boxes and wall posters make for fun interaction with the imagery, but importantly make this a very relatable environment. It could be any school. It could be YOUR school. Small details also show the reader how to tell Esme and Eunwoo apart, if there was any doubt. Esme always has one shoe untied, for example, which also says something about her being a little more scrappy, whilst Eunwoo is always neat.
This is a lively, funny narrative tackling the serious issue of casual racism in a way that’s easily comprehensible for young readers. Teachers or carers could extend the reading with a group discussion around similarities and differences, celebrating what makes each of us unique and interesting.