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donnaodonnellfigurski.com - UNIQUE MONIQUE
Unique Monique
by Maria Rousaki, illustrated by Polina Papanikolaou
Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Ages 4-8

At the shopping mall today I saw a boy with blue hair, a girl with five rings in her nose, and another with hair standing straight up. I think they call it “spiked.” Some might call it weird. It does look a bit strange, but I think it’s creative. It’s a statement. It says, “Look at me! I am unique!”

I encourage my first graders to think for themselves. “Use your own ‘noodle’,” I say. So, when I discovered UNIQUE MONIQUE written by Maria Rousaki and illustrated by Polina Papanikolaou, I was delighted. What a great book to emphasize my point. Be yourself! Think for yourself! Make a statement! Maria and Polina did, when they teamed up to produce this “unique” book.

Monique is a great example of a youngster who is not afraid to let the world, and her teachers, know exactly who she is! I particularly loved Monique’s giant red hat. . the one that looked like a tomato. Anyone who knows me, knows I love hats, too. But, I’ve never dared to wear a tomato hat. Maybe I will . . . some day.

I also loved when Monique strolled across the schoolyard, totally confident in herself, with every eye glued to her. She was proud of that new hat. I admired her doggedness and her determination to find something . . . anything that would set her apart from the rest of her uniform-clad classmates. I applaud Monique’s courage . . . the courage to be different. What guts!

And I applaud Maria Rousaki and Polina Papanikolaou for a work well done . . . or should I say a “unique” work . . . well done.

This review can also be seen on: SmartWriters
FROM the MOUTHS of KIDDLE CRITers: a critique group

“Unique Monique’s school was very strict,” said Hannah.

“Yeah, they had to wear uniforms,” said Lily.

“Well, if I were Monique, I wouldn’t like to wear a uniform. I’d like to wear my own clothes,” said Meg.

“I don’t think Monique’s school was fair,” said Pritka.

“I agree,” said Miguel

“And, I don’t get it,” said Keisha. “Why couldn’t the kids wear hair bands? What if it’s hot out?”

“Yeah, some days are really scorchers,” said Zach. “I think it was a little silly that they couldn’t have hats, too.”

“The teachers and the principal were not being fair,” said Meg.

Hannah frowned and nodded. “They can get away with whatever they want, but the kids can’t,” she said.

“Some teachers wear dresses and not uniforms,” said Gina.

“I know why the teachers don’t wear uniforms,” said Cara. “Maybe they can’t find their sizes.” Everyone laughed.

“I think Monique just wanted to be unique,” said Hannah.

Zach nodded. “Unique means you just want to stand out . . . so you don’t look the same as everyone,” he said.

“ . . . like you are very fancy,” said Keisha.

“ . . . like wearing very fancy stuff . . . like beads or headbands or hats,” said Miguel.

“But everybody was dressed alike, said Pritka.

“So, Monique just wanted to be different,” said Felino.

“Yeah, so she wore the red hat,” said Pritka.

Cara started to giggle again. “Monique’s hat looked like a tomato,” she said. “Really funny!”

“But it doesn’t matter what you wear,” said Hannah.

“If I were unique, I would be different,” said Felino.

“Well, unique means one of a kind,” said Pritka. “And well, I’m the only Indian in my class.”

Hannah sighed, “What makes me unique is I feel like the only German person in New Jersey,” she said.

“ . . . and I have the most freckles,” said Keisha.

“It feels like I’m the only one with glasses,” said Juan. “I don’t see many people in the world with glasses.”

“And some people look alike,” said Hannah.

“And some have different colored skin or different colored hair,” said Zach.

“But they may have a difference that you can’t see, too,” said Hannah.

“Right, so they are all unique . . . in their own way,” said Lily. Some people have different languages . . . like Chinese, American, Turkish . . . whatever.”

“Well,” said Pritka smiling. “I think this book talks to people who need to wear uniforms. It lets them know they can still be different and they can make a difference in their lives. They don’t always have to be the same.”

“Yeah, all different!” said Lily. “ Not exactly the same. Even twins aren’t exactly the same.”


LANGUAGE ARTS – Learn About Me. Learn About You.

What child can’t use a boost in the self-esteem department? This activity is designed to do just that.

Students discuss all the ways that Monique tried to be different. Then list on chart paper.

Tomato-looking hat
Headband with beads
Fancy bag and fancy socks
Painted fingernails

Assign each student a partner. Each student needs to discover one thing about their partner that makes them unique. It can be something that is a part of them, like Keisha’s freckles or something they are wearing, like Juan’s glasses. They may be different because they have a different skin color like Pritka or be from another country, like Hannah. (Germany) It might be something that they like to do that makes them especially unique. (write, read, play soccer, travel to the moon???)

Next have students meet together as a group. Each student can introduce his/her partner to the other students by saying:

“This is my friend, Juan. He is unique because he wears glasses.
“This is my friend, Hannah. She is unique because she was born in Germany.

Encourage the students to become creative. Have fun and don’t forget to tell what makes you unique, too.


Select any page from UNIQUE MONIQUE, which has a group of children on it. Identify one characteristic and have your students count the number of children who meet the specifications.

Ex. 1:
Turn to the page where Monique strolls across the schoolyard in her big, red hat. Students count how many girls and how many boys are in the play yard. Draw a graph paper grid on the chalkboard and record the data. Discuss the results.
Possible skill work:
. . . addition
. . . more/less

Stretch the activity further.

Turn to the page where the principal is scolding the children. Students count how many children have their eyes open, how many children have their eyes shut and to mix it up a bit, how many children have only one eye showing. Students can work in pairs or in small groups and record their results on graph paper. (1/2” or 1” ruled works best) Compare results and discuss.
Possible skill work:
. . . addition
. . . subtraction
. . . more/less
. . . most/least
. . . more than/fewer than

Now start flipping through the pages. Have the students discover a variety of characteristics, which they can graph.

Hair color
How many children are smiling? How many look surprised?
Color of hats
Color of glasses

If you like UNIQUE MONIQUE or books about spunky children or children who need a self-esteem boost, you may also like the following books:


RUBY THE COPYCAT by Peggy Rathman

SUKI’S KIMONO by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
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