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Review of Why Am I Me?

Why Am I Me?
by Paige Britt; illus. by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
Preschool    Scholastic    40 pp.    g
9/17    978-1-338-05314-2    $17.99

A boy and a girl of different skin colors board the same subway car as it travels through a city. As their gazes meet, each child seems to be quietly pondering questions posed by the lyrical text: “Why am I me…and not you?” “Why is everyone who they are…and not someone else entirely?” Never does the book offer answers to the questions, a satisfying turn that places trust in viewers to follow the inquiries where they will — during the reading and perhaps beyond. The colorful, textured illustrations (in acrylic paint, colored pencil, and collage) reflect the beauty, diversity, warmth, and creativity of the other people around the children, with repeated motifs such as stars and circles enhancing the bonds among them. When the two young people reach their destination (a park) and finally speak to each other, their simple “hi”s offer connection across space and difference — a we forged of mes. The interplay of art and text will invite the book’s audience to grapple with themes of individuality, diversity, universality, and what it means to be human. A small book premised on big questions.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Megan Dowd Lambert About Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert is an instructor at Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. For nearly ten years she also worked in the education department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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