If: A Father's Advice to His Son


What makes a boy into a man?


For more than one hundred years, this classic poems has inspired readers to reach for the best in themselves.

In pictures and words, here's what every boy needs to know most.

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What makes a boy into a man?


For more than one hundred years, this classic poems has inspired readers to reach for the best in themselves.

In pictures and words, here's what every boy needs to know most.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Michelle H. Martin
Rudyard Kipling's poem begins: "If you can keep your head/ when all about you/ Are losing theirs/ and blaming it on you/ If you can trust yourself/ when all men doubt you, / But make allowance for their doubting too" and continues to describe a series of common conflicts that most people face at some point in their lives. The poem then concludes, "Yours is the Earth/ and everything that's in it,/ And—which is more—/ you'll be a Man, my son!" Accompanying this motivational poem is Charles R. Smith's photographic images of boys and young men playing popular sports like soccer, baseball, and football, but also less familiar ones such as archery, fencing, and pole vaulting. Unlike the sharp images in some other of Smith's photographic picture books, such as Brown Sugar Babies and Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with the Boys' Choir of Harlem, these images are intentionally muted, not clearly depicting any of the faces of the athletes. This technique, along with the final illustration's focus only on the shadow of a man touching the shoulder of his son, suggests that regardless of sport, ability, ethnic identity or age, this poem is for the everyman. Though girls might enjoy this Kipling/Smith collaboration, it is firmly a "boy book," concentrating visually on tense calf muscles, flying feet, and twisting torsos of young male athletes. An excellent companion for books like Denize Lauture and Jonathan Green's Father and Son, Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and E.B. Lewis's Bippity Bop Barber Shop, and Will Smith and Kadir Nelson's Just the Two of Us, this title could offer an excellent avenue into literature for young male reluctant readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6
Kipling's powerful poem comes to life for a contemporary audience in atmospheric photographs that use the metaphor of sports. A lovely shot of a boy heading a soccer ball accompanies the opening couplet: "If you can keep your head/when all about you/are losing theirs/and blaming it on you…." The mood and actions in most of the illustrations clearly invoke the verse, although two are murky and enigmatic. Shadows and dispersed light are used artfully and, interestingly, all of the people have their backs to the camera or appear in profile; their anonymity confirms the sense of universality found in the poem. The attractive presentation includes an eye-catching cover, a blend of font sizes in alternating black or white print, and a judicious use of white space that gives the eye some rest between the many action-filled images. In a thoughtful afterword, Smith explains why he chose to interpret this particular poem. Teachers and parents will enjoy sharing this book with kids; it is a good vehicle to promote discussion.
—Kirsten CutlerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689877995
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/27/2007
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,448,444
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

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.
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