Just the Two of Us

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Will Smith lends the lyrics of his hit single to a remarkable new picture book. Gorgeous pencil and oil illustrations by Kadir Nelson follow a father and son relationship through three stages of life: from newborn, to young child, to young man. Will Smith¹s song is a call to all fathers to teach their children the values of dignity, integrity, and honor. But above all, it is a song of love.

Celebrates the dignity, integrity, and ...

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2001 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. 32 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: Children/juvenile.

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Will Smith lends the lyrics of his hit single to a remarkable new picture book. Gorgeous pencil and oil illustrations by Kadir Nelson follow a father and son relationship through three stages of life: from newborn, to young child, to young man. Will Smith¹s song is a call to all fathers to teach their children the values of dignity, integrity, and honor. But above all, it is a song of love.

Celebrates the dignity, integrity, and honor of being a father.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Actor and musician Will Smith has teamed up with award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson to create a touching and telling story of a father's love for his son. Just the Two of Us examines a father's reflections on his son's life from infanthood through to young adulthood. With words derived from Smith's hit single of the same name and Nelson's beautifully rendered pencil and oil illustrations, this touching tale addresses some of the many ups and downs, joys and heartaches, and rewards and challenges of life. Underlying it all is a rousing theme of togetherness that suggests a loving father-and-son team can accomplish anything if they stick together.

While the driving force behind Just the Two of Us is a father's intense love and lifelong commitment to his child, Smith also touches on such weighty and trouble-prone topics as hate, anger, peer pressure, and broken hearts. The narrator father prepares his son for some of these curve balls of life, encouraging him to face them with dignity, honesty, and consideration for others. The pictures and text may well serve as a launching platform for discussion -- a safe way to broach potentially difficult subjects. As such, it is suitable for kids ranging in age from toddlers to adolescence, making this book a long-lived companion. (Beth Amos)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Grammy-winner and actor Smith presents the lyrics of his hit song that borrows the refrain, "Just the two of us,/ Building castles in the sky./ Just the two of us,/ you and I," in its celebration of a father's love for his son. Featuring various fonts and type sizes for emphasis, the text scans best with Smith's rap delivery: "Sometimes I wonder what you're gonna be/ A general, a doctor, maybe an MC./ I wanna kiss you all the time/ But I will test that butt when you cut out of line./ Why'd you do that?" As he pledges devotion and offers advice to his son, the narrator's sentiment shines with sincerity. Describing the night he brought his newborn son home from the hospital, Smith states, "That night I don't think one wink I slept/ As I slipped out of my bed, to your crib I crept/ Touched your head gently, I felt my heart melt/ 'Cause I knew I loved you/ more than life itself." Emotion also runs deep in the paintings, which show the boy growing into a youth. The pictures rely on fairly conventional imagery: father holding up infant son against the sun, the two viewed in profile; father and mature son in thoughtful conversation on a beach at sunset. But Nelson effectively conveys the affirming message of the text. All ages. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Will Smith, star of television and the big screen and Grammy Award winner, successfully turns his talent to picture book writing. The rhythmic rap lovingly relates the depth of feeling a father has for his son. From the moment he first holds his precious creation in his arms, through haircuts and basketball moves on the asphalt, to the young boy's emergence into adolescence, theirs is a celebration of love and interdependence. Couched in the lines of admiration are admonitions to lead a good life and grow to be a proud man. Because it is a rap, the poem scans better when read aloud. Alone, this piece might seem quite ordinary but paired with Kadir Nelson's bold and dramatic illustrations it becomes an eloquent tribute to a father and his son. 2001, Scholastic, $16.95. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Dad's a cool, but caring guy, when he contemplates his growing son in this hip-hop tale about family love. The author is the famed actor and musician, and the book stems from his hit song of the same title. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From The Critics
Kadir Nelson illustrates the actor/singer/author's first venture into the picturebook world. Just the Two of Us focuses on a father's ongoing love and participation as his child grows from a boy into a man. The focus on the father's emotions and hopes sets this apart from the usual treatise on father/son relationships and adds depth to the topic.
Kirkus Reviews
The lyrics from Smith's rap (of the same title) are beautifully illustrated here in this selection for one-on-one reading that celebrates the bond between father and son. Nelson (Big Jabe, 2000, etc.) uses a broad palette in his pencil and oil paintings to capture emotion and gesture in close-up or landscape views. The pictures are full of light, shadows, and love. He shows the father and the growing son of Smith's text playing ball and trimming hair, as the father advises, "Throughout life people will make you mad / Disrespect you and treat you bad. / Let God deal with the things they do / 'Cause hate in your heart will consume you too." Smith "standardized" some of the grammar in his text, which still needs to be read aloud, and with a beat. Different font size throughout a line indicates emphasis, and makes the words seem to move on the page. Though general in sentiment, the text is specific of an individual pair: "It didn't work out with me and your mom / But yo, when push comes to shove / You were conceived in love." This might make reading awkward for happily married fathers, but it's a unique and beautiful title, and for some it will fit the bill. (Picture book. 6-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439087926
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Series: Scholastic Bookshelf Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.29 (w) x 11.24 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Kadir Nelson illustrated two Caldecott Honor Books: MOSES and HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX. ELLINGTON WAS NOT A STREET by Ntozake Shange won the Coretta Scott King Award. Will Smith’s JUST THE TWO OF US won an NAACP Image Award, and his new book, WE ARE THE SHIP continues to garner major awards. Nelson showed artistic talent at age 3 and began working in oils by age 16. He lives with his family in San Diego, California.
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Will Smith

Q: Just the Two of Us celebrates the joy of fatherhood. What do you want your sons and daughter to learn from this book?

A: I want them to learn a few small gems of wisdom that I think are very important. For example, throughout life people will treat them badly and disrespect them but they must let God deal with those people. If they keep hate it will consume them. That is the concept I try to live my life by -- not to condemn people for their actions but to follow my own path to righteousness. I let God deal with the negativity that people bring towards me and I do not allow that negativity to be transferred because it can fester like a cancer.

Q: You've dedicated this book to your parents and to the memory of your grandmother. What was the biggest lesson you learned from them?

A: I learned the importance of dedication. I had people in my life who dedicated themselves to be parents. I think that parents provide the first impression of God their children experience. Mom and Dad are the measuring tool for the greatness that this world can be and the level of godliness that exists. So if a child's mother doesn't love them, it is hard for them to believe that anyone will love them. If their father is not there to protect them, it is hard for them to believe that anyone will protect them, even God.

Q: What did you like best about creating a book for children?

A: Just the Two of Us is one of the best records I have ever written. The messages and the emotions in the record really lent themselves well to a children's book. Also, I think there was a certain feeling generated by the video that felt natural to recreate pictorially into the book Just the Two of Us.

Q: What other books do you plan to write?

A: Jada and I have a few other ideas, but nothing we're ready to discuss at this point. We are keeping it hush, hush and working with the people at Scholastic to help flush out these ideas.

Q: What books do you read to your children?

A: For the last two years it has been all Pokémon. Trey has about 40 Pokémon books that he reads every night. Jaden is pretty much into The Cat in the Hat and so am I.

Q: Did you have a favorite book as a child?

A: I was really into Amelia Bedelia. If I were to create a series of books they would be somewhere along the lines of the Amelia Bedelia series.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers, musicians and actors of today?

A: The most important advice is to be very honest with yourself about your ability. Then encourage everyone around you to be honest with you about your ability. If you are a little unsure, feel that you might be good, or just want to try it, it becomes a lot more difficult to summon the strength it takes to fight your way through this industry. So, you have to know from the start that you are great and you are going to win. Beyond that point the only advice is to do it because you love it, not because you want an award or you expect to make money. All the other accolades and financial blessings will come.

Q: How has being a parent changed your views?

A: I don't think being a parent has changed my views as much as it has solidified my convictions. I was raised well by very strong and caring parents who laid a solid foundation. Then, as all kids do, I had my time to go out and experiment with everything that was completely the opposite of how I was raised. Eventually, I came back to the convictions of my childhood with the asphalt of my experiences and a dash of my own personal viewpoints of the world. Yet, for the most part I live by the foundation upon which I was raised.

Q: You have a high-profile career, you're blessed with a beautiful and talented wife and children, and now you're venturing into children's books. Is there anything else that you'd like to do in the future?

A: Yeah, go to Disneyland!

Q&A courtesy of Scholastic Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2001

    Excellent book if you know the song

    When I ordered this book, I didn't know it was the lyrics of the song. I thought it would just be a nice story about a dad and his son. As I read the book, I heard the song in my head and the pictures made me almost cry. It is so sweet to actually *see* the song. When my 16yo son first heard the song, he ran out and bought the tape so I could hear it. Now 18, he got real emotional when he read the book. His dad is nothing like the dad in the song/book, so I guess it meant a lot to him to know that dads can be like this. And he could be this kind of a dad someday.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    Pure Fun

    I know it features a Dad and his son but I believe girls enjoy it just as much as the boys. This is a great gift idea. It's even more fun if after reading and discussing the story you pull up the song and sing/rap it together.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    Every child's wish

    This is a wonderful book that can really hit a powerful string with any reader that might be enjoying it. The book has a focus on love that is strong and uplifting, but also shies away from the norm by commenting on a fathers love instead of a mothers. Being a young adult male I can really appriciate this book's internal meaning to the fullest. I found that this book delivered an arousal of feelings from a perspective of a son being with his father and then the awaiting to one day (not too terribly soon) be a father. For me that was the highlight of the book. The inner dialog that was initiated from this book was very alarming yet appriciated. Placing this type of message with a book that alone has so much stimulating rhythm that a part of me actually feels that the song reduces its overall flow. Overall this book was very nice as it was well written and well illitrated, with an amazing 'below the surface' message that I found a personal connection to.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2005

    A Teachers Point of View

    I actually read 'Just the Two of Us' to my class this afternoon. Just the Two of Us is wonderfully illustrated and it's basically Will Smiths song, which was out several years ago, just in book form. I read it to the class since we were studying various types of modern day families and how some families are small and others are very large. In this case, Will is talking to his son about how he grew up and looks back at himself when he was his sons age and how they share similarities. Will briefly touches on his divorce to his first wife (not Jada)and how he will 'have his sons back.' This is definitley a feel good story about a father and son growing a deeper bond between them. As much as I love the book, I would like to see Will Smith write a real childrens book the next time around.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2002

    Simply beautiful!

    This is a wonderful book that captures the love that exist from a parent to a child. It speaks about real emotions that we all have. This book almost made me cry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2001

    The Magic of Fatherhood as a Sole Caregiving Parent

    I have always been partial to the idea of coupling genres. I like to see sculptures that are imaginatively lit, with music playing in the background. To take a song and turn it into a book was an inspired choice to me. As I read the words and look at the beautiful images, I feel strong emotions that are evoked by hearing the song in my mind. The effect is a lot like seeing a motion picture, or being in an emotion-filled moment with wonderful music resonating through your body. Whether or not you are a single father, this book will move you in beautiful ways. The book builds from a father's reminiscences about what it was like to become a man, a father, and then to take on the sole parenting role after a divorce. Every father will remember having these same emotions, and will be glad to have memories of them reawakened. The book begins with: 'I told my parents I wanted to build a castle in the sky.' ''Here's a pencil and paper, let's draw the plans,' they replied.' The book ends with: 'My son told me he wanted to build a castle in the sky.' ''Here's a pencil and paper, let's draw the plans,' I replied.' The song has many other inspiring lyrics that work well here. Some of my favorites include: 'I pledge my life to you.' 'a little me' 'I wanna kiss you all the time.' 'I try to be a tough dad, but you keep making me laugh . . . .' 'It didn't work out with me and your mom . . ./You were conceived in love.' 'One day some girl's gonna break your heart.' 'Throughout life people will make you mad . . . /Let God deal with the things they do . . . .' 'Always tell the truth, say your prayers/Hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears.' Some people may be bothered by the colloquial words and grammar. If the book were not based on a song, that would be a problem. But I found the usages helped with the mood. This is just an ordinary man, with feet of clay, doing his best. If his grammar isn't perfect, that's just part of portraying his character. Some readers may not like the way the rhymes scan. Some rhymes are definitely forced, but others lines flow nicely. If I were to judge the book as poetry, I would definitely grade it down for these problems. But in the context of the musical experience, I found it worked all right. So it is just a missed opportunity to be even better. I found the recollections of what it was like before going to the hospital, the experiences there, and coming home to be especially moving. I hope other authors will take on these important moments of fatherhood and give them their own special interpretation, as well. The illustrations should be singled out for special praise. They create a magical mood that allows your mind to experience the book as both memory and movie while the music plays on. Whether you are black or have some other color skin, you will identify directly with the characters in these illustrations without thinking about what their color is. That is a fine achievement in portraying universal expressions of love. Almost any father would be delighted to have this book as a gift for father's day from a daughter or son. After you finish reading the book, take a moment to reflect on your father or your experiences as a father. If your father is still alive, share with him some of your memories of when it was 'just the two of us' when you were growing up. Be inspired by the most precious and optimistic memories you have! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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