Have you ever noticed how our canine companions have numerous things in common with children? They greet each day as a new adventure, looking for fun or creating their own. They use all their senses to experience each moment. Unless past circumstances dictate differently, they approach all humans as equal individuals. Age, physical characteristics, and abilities do not figure in their opinion of us. They see inside us.
If you watch a group of little children playing with puppies, you can see this is true. As dogs grow older this remains the same. When children grow older sometimes this changes, but it need not be so. Why am I me? (Scholastic Press, August 29, 2017) written by Paige Britt with pictures by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko explores how we see ourselves and how others see us.
Why am I
me . . .
. . . and
As a boy and his father and a girl and her mother wait to board a rapid transit train, the questions begin in their minds. They are curious about their outward appearances and the possibilities hidden inside. As they ride in the car, each continues their internal musings.
They both look around at the variety of people in their presence; young and old, light and dark skins (and all the marvelous shades in between) and the different attire. They both wonder why people are the way they are. What makes them unique? What makes them who they are?
The two children then ask who they might be if they were different. They even think if another person were them, would that person be the same as they are? As the train reaches a stop, they both get off with their parents.
It is now evening with stars sparkling in the darkened sky. They both are still thinking about their own special individuality. A gift is then freely given.
Ten questions and a two-letter word reply written by Paige Britt are a poetic interlude on a large life query. It is a gentle exploration as a child would think but as adults could or perhaps should think. Observations by the children further their interest and ultimately give them their answer. Here is another question.
Who in the world are we . . .
. . . if we aren't you and me?
The rich choice of color seen on the matching dust jacket and book case is a reflection of the treasure waiting to be discovered in each individual person. The image on the front, to the right, of the boy and girl overlapping with the shared star sparkling in their eyes seems to suggest the waiting wonder in our world. To the left, on the back, we are shown the array of people found in the subway car. (Our lives are better with all of us together.)
On the opening endpapers a quiet neighborhood mirrors the diversity of residents. Many of them appear later inside the subway car, including the boy and his father. Rendered in acrylic paint, colored pencil and collage the illustrations by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko continue to unfold the story as the title page shows another street with the girl and her mother walking by shops and people. On the verso and dedication pages the transit is shown above ground. The children and their parents have arrived there. On the closing endpapers, it is nighttime in a neighborhood. A street light glows. We can see both the boy and girl through windows warm with light in separate buildings.
Each picture spans across two pages. The imaginings of the boy and the girl are noticeable in their facial expressions; curious, fascinated and hopeful. Readers will also enjoy looking at all the individual faces of the people on the train and in the world outside as it is passed by the passengers.
Sean and Selina vary the point of views throughout the book but also inside the train. At one point we are close to the boy and girl and then we step back to see all the other people around them. Even when the boy is watching children at play in a park (a more panoramic view) as the train speeds by his face is larger at the window focusing on his question. As the story comes to a close, we are brought near to the children with them looking out at us. This brings us more deeply into the narrative.
One of my many favorite pictures is of the boy and his father and the girl and her mother on the train. We are close to them. The boy, holding his book and skateboard, is looking down. His father holding an open book has paused in his reading to gaze at his son. The girl, on the right, is looking at the boy. Her mother is looking at her. There are many emotions in this scene; all of them are wonderful. I really like the star on the boy's shirt and the yellow bird on the girl's shirt. You can see tiny print on the pages of the boy's book.
Regardless of how many times you read Why am I me? written by Paige Britt with pictures by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko you will be enveloped by its beauty. The quality of contemplation it invites in readers will vary but will surely promote inner reflection and outward discussions. You need to share this book as often as you can. I highly recommend it for your professional and personal bookshelves.
To discover more about Paige Britt, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Sean Qualls also maintains a blog. This title is featured at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, the blog of author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson. And you must read the interview between these three collaborators at author Chris Barton's website, Bartography.