"I Am Every Good Thing"
BY: Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen Books, Sept. 1), ages 3 to 7, 32 pages, $17.99 hardcover, $10.99 ebook, $5 audiobook.
STORY: Across full-bleed illustrations of joyous Black kids playing and working, affirmations proclaim the in-born goodness of each little boy. It feels good to grin back at the unique faces here — until you think about why this book was written in 2020. But don't weep, rejoice. Every generation of children is another chance for adults to get it right.
Words and images celebrate things that are true about all children and that all children ought to be told, but because of the reality of how this world misinterprets skin, a book that says them directly and specifically to Black boys is useful.
"I am a roaring flame of creativity."
"I am a sponge, soaking up information, knowledge, and wisdom."
"I am a highlight reel of magnificence."
"I am kind and polite, like 'yes, ma'am' and 'yes, sir,' helping my grandmother cross the street, and saying 'bless you' when a stranger has to sneeze."
"I am tight hugs, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on — if you have to. I hope you never have to. I am here."
My favorite page says, "I am not what they might call me, and I will not answer to any name that is not my own. I am what I say I am."
The most explicit message in this book is the last one, and it says: "I am worthy to be loved."
Santas casting around for a gift book for their Black son should give this one a look.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.