October 20, 2017

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Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt | SLJ Review

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redstarBRITT, Paige. Why Am I Me? illus. by Selina Alko & Sean Qualls. 40p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338053142.

PreS-Gr 2 –Britt tackles the metaphysical for the picture book crowd. Two (presumably) parent/child pairs approach a subway from different directions: an African American father and son and a light-skinned mother and daughter. The boy reads a book while riding a skateboard; the girl has a musical instrument case strapped to her back. As the kids notice each other, he wonders: “Why am I me…and not you?” She thinks: “Why are you, you…and not me?” And so it goes, with thoughts such as, “If someone else were me,/who would they be?/Someone lighter,/older,/darker,/bolder?” Alko and Quall’s acrylic, colored pencil, and collage scenes portray a diverse population within the train car and seen through its windows. People of varying skin colors, physical abilities, and styles play, watch sports, or perform or listen to music. The thought bubble questions arise naturally; they’re the kinds of things that would go through a child’s mind when observing differences. The climax is spread over four openings. It begins with a triptych in which the star on the boy’s shirt becomes a twinkle in his eye and then a glowing shape in the sky. After the girl’s eye sparkles, the boy reaches out, and their faces intersect in a Venn diagram of friendship. VERDICT Universal questions combine with richly layered, captivating compositions, presenting opportunities for careful examination and stimulating conversations. Perfect for classroom or one-on-one sharing.–Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal July 2017 issue.

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