The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Same, Same But Different

The Classroom Bookshelf welcomes Nea Wadson as our guest blogger this week. Nea is a student in the Specialist Teacher of Reading Program in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University.

Same, Same but Different

Written and Illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Published in 2011 by Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt
ISBN # 978-0-8050-8946-2
Grades: PreK – 6

Book Review

Are we really that different? In her latest picture book, Jenny Sue Koestecki-Shaw shows us that we are more similar to one another than we might think. Kailash from India and Elliot from America become pen pals through a school project. This is a beautifully written story of friendship between two boys from different cultures on opposite sides of the world. Through letters and pictures, they share their worlds with one another. Elliot’s favorite class is art, where he can be anything, while Kailash’s favorite class is yoga, where he can be anything. Throughout the book Koestecki-Shaw repeats the popular saying from Southeast Asia, “same, same, but different!” Through bright and vibrant illustrations, Koestecki-Shaw details the unique features of each child’s culture. Taking a positive approach to differences, this book shows the two cultures side by side and highlights their diversity. The book is inspired by Koestecki-Shaw’s own experience at the Sunshine School in Nepal, where students shared different parts of their lives with children in the U.S.
Teaching Invitations
Grades PreK – 6
  • Pen-Pals. Create an opportunity for students to correspond with pen-pals from a different classroom, school, city, state, or country. Invite them to brainstorm questions to ask their pen-pals, as well as information they might consider sharing about themselves.
  • Stamp That! The end-pages of Kostecki-Shaw’s novel are covered with interesting stamps from India and America. Invite your students to design their own stamps. What do these stamps say about them and the world they live in?
  • Without Words. Invite students to think of a trip or a journey they have taken with a member of their family. It might be a short trip to the store or to school, or it might be a longer journey they took, going on a vacation to a different part of the world. Have students tell the story of their trip in pictures.
  • Picture It. Elliot and Kailash use very little words to describe their worlds. Instead, they rely on communicating through pictures. Invite students to paint a detailed picture of their own worlds. Encourage them to include the features that make it special and unique. They may want to try using collage or other illustrating techniques demonstrated by Kostecki-Shaw.
  • ABCs. Discuss the fact that alphabets look different all over the world. Examine alphabets from different cultures. Lead students in a discussion on how various alphabets are similar and different.
  • Yoga. Kailash’s favorite subject in school is yoga. Explore different yoga poses with your students. As a class, research the tradition of yoga practices in India.
  • Animals or Pets. Look for animals in both Kailash and Elliot’s cultures. Talk about what they are doing, where they might live and how they get the things they need to live. Invite students to look for animals that live in their neighborhoods. Allow students to share what they discover.
Grades 3 – 6
  • Across Oceans. Elliot and Kailash send letters from India to America. Help students to locate India and America on a world map. Invite them to consider the following questions: Which oceans separate the two places? How far apart are the two boys? Calculate the distance. Brainstorm ways the letters could travel from one place the other and estimate how long it might take each way.
  • Same but Different. Have student create a body outline. Inside the outline include drawings and/or words to show personal interests, families, lives, pets, etc. Give students the opportunity to share with body maps with each other and discuss how they are similar and different from their classmates.
  • Kids around the World. Using the Kids Around the World website, have students learn about a child from a different culture. Allow them to listen to interviews and look at photographs of daily life for children in other cultures. Encourage students to consider how their lives are different from the child they researched and how their lives are similar.

Go Beyond (Grades 4 and up) – Students can create their own sample site for Kids around the World. They may use photographs, maps, and interviews to teach children from other cultures about themselves and their world.

  • Expressions. Same, same but different – this is a common phrase used in India. Brainstorm common expressions students hear in their own cultures. Invite them to illustrate the expression in order to explain the meaning behind it.
  • Greetings. Different cultures have different ways of greeting each other. Elliot has a special handshake, while Kailash bows and says, “Namaste.” Have students research ways to greet one another in different cultures. Encourage students to present their findings with the class. Students may greet each other at the start of morning meetings in different ways.
  • Tell Me More. In a picture book, illustrators use their skill as artists to depict the setting of the story. There are two settings in this picture book – India and America. Challenge students to be as descriptive with words as Jenny Sue Kosstecki-Shaw is with her descriptions. Have students write a description of each of the settings in the book, being careful to evoke the feelings the artwork suggests about each place.
  • A Mirror Image. Mirror by Jeannie Baker is another book that looks closely at the similarities and differences between two cultures using mixed media illustrations. Invite students to discuss the similarities and differences between the two books. Which parts of a culture did the authors choose to emphasize and compare? How do the illustrations help to get the ideas across in both books? Does the absence of text make Mirror more or less effective?
Critical Literacy
  • Cultural Differences and Prejudice. Elliot and Kailash explore each other’s differences in a positive way. This is not always the way people react to differences. Sometimes differences are met with prejudice. Have students think of a time they have experienced or witnessed acts of prejudice. Encourage personal connections as well as literary connections. Read about the issue of prejudice in a variety of genres – fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry etc. How has prejudice changed over time? What effects does prejudice have in our society? What prejudices are still prominent today? Research examples in history where rights have been denied based on discrimination. What can be done to help people celebrate differences rather than discriminate against them? Research can be turned into social action projects or writing pieces. Consider having students write a letter from the perspective of a person who has experienced prejudice. The letter should address the person who has wronged them and explain the way prejudice made them feel.
Further Explorations

Online Resources
Jenny Sue Kastecki-Shaw’s website
Greetings Around the World
International Music and Culture
Time Magazine for Kids
Ajmera, M. and Versonal, A. R. (1997). Children from Australia to Zimbabwe: A photographic journey around the world. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.
  • An alphabetical guide of countries and all the different types of children and people there are around the world.
Baker, J. (2010). Mirror. Australia: Walker Books.
  • This wordless picture book follows two boys on opposite sides of the world through an entire day.
Fox, M. (1997). Whoever you are. Ill. By L. Staube. Boston, MA: Harcourt Children’s Books
  • A beautiful story about what unites us all over the world.
Hollyer, B. (1999). Wake up, world!: A day in the life of children around the world. New York: Henry Holt.
  • Photographs and captions document the daily life of children around the world.
Kindersley, A., Kindersely, B. (1995). Children just like me: A unique celebration of children around the world. New York: DK Publishing and UNICEF.
  • A photographic celebration of children from a variety of cultures and places.
McGinty, A. (2007). Thank you world. Ill. By W. Halperin. New York: Dial
  • Eight very different kids, from eight different continents, all go about their day and experience the same moments of happiness
Rand, G. (2005). A pen pal for Max. Ill. by Ted Rand. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
  • The young son of a Chilean farmer writes a note asking for a “faraway friend,” and places it in a box of grapes bound for the United States.
Smith, D., Armstrong, S. (2002). If the world were a village: A book about the world’s people. Canada: Kids Can Press.
  • Encourages the reader to consider the world’s population as if it were a village of 100 people.
Mary Ann Cappiello About Mary Ann Cappiello

Mary Ann is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former public school language arts and humanities teacher, she is a passionate advocate for and commentator on children’s books. Mary Ann is the co-author of Teaching with Text Sets (2013) and Teaching to Complexity (2015) and Text Sets in Action: Pathways Through Content Area Literacy (Stenhouse, 2021). She has been a guest on public radio and a consultant to public television. From 2015-2018, Mary Ann was a member of the National Council of Teachers of English's Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction (K-8) Committee, serving two years as chair.


  1. I have enjoyed the way you share the books and the expanded ideas for lessons. Every time you make me want to get this book and 'use' it! Thank you for the thorough examination!