Review of I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing
by Derrick Barnes; illus. by Gordon C. James
Preschool, Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.    g
9/20    978-0-525-51877-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-51878-5    $10.99

Barnes and James reunite, after the multi-award-winning success of Crown (rev. 11/17), for this beautiful and necessary book that affirms Black boys and their right to thrive. James’s vibrant oil-paint illustrations harmoniously depict Black boys in motion, in contemplation, and in full vitality as they skateboard, swim, or stand contemplatively in the outdoors. Barnes’s refrain throughout the book of “I am” (“I am a roaring flame of creativity. / I am a lightning round of questions, and / a star-filled sky of solutions”) is a powerful, present-tense reminder that normalizes the robust lives Black boys deserve to live, in stark contrast to the dedication page, which lists a number of murdered Black men and boys, many of whom were denied their own boyhoods. I Am Every Good Thing lets Black boys know they are loved and valued just as they are, with unlimited possibilities. Movingly, one boy affirms for himself and for the reader, “I am not what they might call me, / and I will not answer to any name that is not my own.” Fortunately, Barnes and James provide us with a range of powerful, positive names to call Black boys as they urge us to see them, to love them, and to let them live their lives as they deserve.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kim Parker
Dr. Kim Parker is assistant director of teacher training at Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA, and co-chair of the Books for Black Children and Youth initiative of the Boston Network for Black Student Achievement. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee.

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