From the Coretta Scott King Award–winning photographer of My People, an illuminating pairing of poetry and portraits depicts the splendor of our global community.
I am the world. I am strong. I am the spirit of generations gone.
The children of our world come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. Celebrate the vibrancy, the fibers, and the ingredients that define the unique nature of cultural heritages across the globe and the universal truths that unite each and every one of us in this rich, elegant verse paired with striking, diverse images from award-winning poet and photographer, Charles. R. Smith, Jr.
Children—flexing muscles, wearing a kilt, twirling beaded braids, chomping bratwurst, and more—portray the world in all that they are, in all the uniqueness of their essence. The photographs of individual young people, children, and babies communicate in vibrant color the pieces of the puzzle that make up the world. The text includes, "I am the blood of emperors. I am the soul of kings. I am the breeze of the islands far and wide. I am the snap in biscotti." The author includes children of diversity from all walks of life to represent the world. The close-up photographs by the award-winning author capture smiles and poignant pauses, grins and carefree expressions. This slim album is a study in diversity and unity in the world. It includes the greeting, "Hello," in eight languages. The children portrayed are bright-eyed and healthy, conveying a positive future and hope for the world. Teachers may use the text to teach metaphor and onomatopoeia with the text on many pages, such as, "I am the clickety-clack-clack of castanets in flamenco." This would be an asset to any school library. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In this slim volume, photography and verse come together to present a youthful showcase of diversity, beauty, strength, and joy. Lush and ethereal color imagery brings deep meaning to the simple, rhythmic lines. Each page explores what makes us who we are, from heritage ("I am the blood of emperors") to food ("I am the snap in biscotti") to clothing ("I am the pleat of the Highland kilts") to music ("I am the clickety-clack-clack of castanets in flamenco") and language, tying everything together to make a unique world. The book ends with a glossary defining cultural terms presented throughout the book. A powerful jumping-off point for children beginning to study their own culture and those of the youngsters around them.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Once again, Smith offers appealing portraits of children in an effort to express the value of diversity (My People, by Langston Hughes, 2009, etc.). Unfortunately the photographs are of varying quality, the brief text is often banal and repetitive, and some design choices obscure the artwork. Each picture, whether on a single page or double-page spread is captioned with a sentence that begins "I am...." In some cases, the words that follow are evocative and the images compelling: "I am the thread in kente cloth" accompanies a photo of a young, black woman gazing unsmiling into the camera. In others, the words chosen seem odd or inconsequential. Two of the weakest descriptions, "I am the snap in biscotti" and "I am the tradition in pierogi," fail to effectively convey anything about the cultures they are meant to represent, and the playful, obviously posed photos wind up looking peculiar. On most pages, crisp, clear, white letters stand out against the black background with some words, usually one per page, printed in color to add visual interest. On a few pages, however, words printed across the faces of the children are distracting and difficult to read. Finally, while the appended glossary does offer basic definitions of the words and phrases used, it fails to effectively explain their pronunciation. Well-intentioned and superficially attractive, this celebration of children and culture ultimately fails to educate or entertain. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)
Charles R. Smith, Jr. is an acclaimed poet and the Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator of My People, a picture book based on the poem by Langston Hughes. He is also the illustrator of If, the author and photographer of I Am the World, and he won the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for his book Twelve Rounds To Glory. He grew up in California and attended the Brooks Institute of Photography. A magazine and book cover photographer in addition to a picture book creator, Charles lives with his wife and kids in Poughkeepsie, New York. Visit him at CharlesRSmithJr.com.