A bit like a cross between a modern Miss Manners and a letter to your future self, More than Words: Navigating the Complex World of Communication by Valerie Sherrard (The Glory Wind, Birdspell) and Natalie Hyde (Saving Armpit, I Owe You One) gives tweens practical advice on polishing their communication and critical-thinking skills to improve personal relationships and help them to be their best selves.
In a digital world where one’s innermost thoughts are commonly broadcast via social media, this book ably brings communication skills back to the basics. As an appeal for polite and civilized behaviour, More than Words offers great advice to increase self-awareness, engagement both in-person and online, and avoid painful gaffs and angsty drama.
Feeling almost old-fashioned in its emphasis on the dangers of being “potty-mouthed” and avoiding sarcasm, the book focuses on the importance of decorum and civility. The first chapter offers a wise, preventative warning: “just like the bell you can’t un-ring, words and actions can never be undone.” A book like this could risk coming off as finger-wagging, but instead, Sherrard and Hyde’s conversational and approachable tone assumes the best in their young readers. The chapter on digital communication reminds us all to pause and consider the “safe to say” test before posting, and advises against, “hiding behind an electronic device.” The authors offer friendly reminders to communicate thoughtfully with their big-sisterly nudges such as, “you’re better than that,” and “you’re classier than that.”
Drawings by illustrator and YouTuber David Jardine perfectly complement the text and capture awkward social moments throughout the book.
More than Words helps to prepare young people as they broaden their social circles and cast ahead to their teen and working years. It also offers helpful scripting on how to handle conflict and even highlights the benefits of pondering. Each chapter has a brief recap of key ideas and concepts, along with ways to practise communication skills individually or in a group. This book could also guide neurodivergent tweens as they learn to read verbal and non-verbal social cues, or coach those seeking to overcome social anxiety.
More than Words helps kids to develop “communication superpowers” and expand their “human horizons” through active listening and empathy. The final chapter sets the reader up for success with a list of engaging conversation starters that would be welcome at any gathering, be it a dinner party or a pizza party.