This Is How We Do It is a non-fiction, illustrated children’s book that provides a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of children from around the world. Based on the real-life experiences of children from Italy, Japan, Peru, Uganda, Russia, India and Iran, the book introduces the reader to Romeo, Kei, Ribaldo, Daphine, Oleg, Ananya, and Kian and their families. Authored by Chicago-based illustrator Matt Lamothe, the seed for the project was planted during his first trip to Africa when he visited Uganda.
Having been inundated with Western representations of Africa for most of his life, Lamothe was unsure what to expect. When he arrived he was surprised by how much he had in common with many of the people he encountered there. Through conversations, he discovered that many of our experiences as human beings are universal and that culture – while immensely valuable – doesn’t necessarily dictate everything about us.
“I was just struck by how relatable and familiar these Ugandans were,” Lamothe tells me via Skype. “It was my first trip to Africa and I’d kind of been primed by pop culture or mass media to think that I would be treated as a stranger or that it would be a dangerous place. My experience was so different and I felt so misinformed that I began to consider what the most direct way to share this experience with people could be.”
Because of children’s tendencies to be more receptive to new ideas, Lamothe settled on a non-fiction picture book as the medium to express these ideas. He also felt that through providing a tangible way for children to grapple with cultures different to their own, the development of a kinder, more empathetic worldview could be encouraged. “It just felt like a very important idea to get across to kids really early in their lives,” he says.
Putting together This Is How We Do It involved a lengthy research process. He compiled an instructional packet for each family he was in communication with, complete with a questionnaire and template for taking photographs. Once he received their responses, he sifted through the information to determine what was suitable for inclusion in the book.
Following a typical day in each child’s life, This Is How We Do It explores how these children from across the globe start their day and what they eat for breakfast (miso soup for the Japanese Kei, and kasha with milk and butter for the Russian Oleg) and extends to their school activities and home life. Featuring charmingly rendered illustrations, simply written anecdotes and engaging activities, it’s a simple method of communicating how we all have much more in common than we think.
With plans to develop educational materials that correlate with the book to be used by teachers and librarians, as well as a website that connects classrooms across the world through ‘pen pal’ relationships, Lamothe is hoping to extend the scope of This Is How Do It as far as possible. He also has plans to develop a series of fiction books for children, which he’s currently working on.
To learn more about This Is How We Do It, visit Lamothe’s website. Or you can follow him on Instagram, where he encourages parents to tag photos of their children doing one of the activities in the book.