Review of Just like Me

Just like Me
by Vanessa Brantley-Newton; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Knopf    40 pp.    g
1/20    978-0-525-58209-0    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-525-58210-6    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-58211-3    $10.99

Each poem in this collection is narrated by a different young girl about some aspect of her identity that she celebrates (“I am a warrior / willing to fight the good fight”), worries over (loneliness, shyness, body acceptance), or simply enjoys (“I love a good Coca-Cola with peanuts inside”). In one poem, a child who feels excluded by her peers fights back by affirming her self-worth: “So why don’t you just open the door / ’cause next time I’m kicking it down.” The culminating piece is called “Paper Chain,” and, as has been apparent throughout, each young woman is revealed as a link in a chain, unique in her own way but inextricably tied to the others — with diversity only strengthening their bonds. Brantley-Newton’s distinctively textured and patterned mixed-media illustrations combine acrylic paint, gouache, charcoal, pencil, oil pastels, and handmade and collage papers (“and lots of magic”) to portray scenes that are warm and sunny or more quiet and contemplative. Poems mainly home in on a single emotion or moment, and the illustrations perfectly capture each piece’s sentiment through expressive facial expressions and body language.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.
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Donna McDine

Terrific review. I particularly enjoy that each is unique but all are connected. Truly our connections create a ripple effect to one another. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention.

Posted : Feb 28, 2020 12:38


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