Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, July 15, 2019

To Be Me

Each living breathing person has an opportunity to be uniquely wonderful.  It's not easy to discover your gifts.  Those things which set you apart from others come from listening to the voice of your heart.  There's a lot of noise in the world.  If you seek those who guide you and not define you, you will hear the truest of words.  These words will help your soul to write its own melody.

There will be times (regardless of your age) when you will be told you can't be true to yourself.  A BOY like YOU (Sleeping Bear Press, July 15, 2019) written by Frank Murphy with illustrations by Kayla Harren is a book which will challenge those who would prevent you from shining your brightest light in the world.  This book will inspire boys (and girls) so they are complete in every way.

There are billions and
and billions
of people in the world.
But you are the only YOU there is!

And the world needs a boy like you.

To begin an unseen narrator tells the reader a boy needs to be kind, helpful, smart and strong.  Strong and smart are described in a sport setting as are other ways to participate appropriately. But . . . sports are only one area when a boy can be himself.

Boys are encouraged to be gardeners, bakers, musicians, writers, scientists and to keep making discoveries.  It's only when you ask questions, you'll have the necessary answers.  When speaking of having the courage to inquire, readers are told

fear and bravery are partners.  

Being smart is when you know to request help.  Being strong is being able to cry.  Everyone cries, young and old, boys and men.  It's good to understand dreams are meant to be followed, even if you reshape them as you work toward them.

Do you remember there are billions and billions and billions of people?  They all have stories just like you.  Their stories are as worthy as your stories. Listen and share.  Be gracious and grateful.  Be the person people will remember for caring for our planet and its people.  Each reader, each boy, is reminded to be totally themselves.  This is the joy this world needs.

The words spoken by the unseen narrator as written by Frank Murphy are full of promise.  They are hopeful and helpful.  The sentences fashion possible scenarios and offer the best choices; choices making boys (all readers) better people.  The repetition of the two words Oh boy followed by a request creates a connecting thread throughout the book.  Here is a passage.

Say, "Please."
Say "Thank you."
Say "I love you."
(And if that's not exactly right,
simply say "I like you.")

And, maybe most importantly, say
"How may I help?"

Helping each other is the best way
to make our world stronger.

Oh boy, be thoughtful.

Every boy, every girl and every adult who looks at the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case will see themselves or someone they know.  The open, attentive and quietly happy expressions on all the boys' faces welcome you into their company.  You want to know all of them.  Their diverse racial, and ethnic backgrounds are a wondrous sight!  The setting of a grassy field with a golden light in the background is splendid.  To the left, on the back, praise for the book is shown on a darker golden yellow canvas with children running along the bottom.  Our main character, his sibling and dog are among them.

On the opening and closing endpapers on a purple background are items found throughout the book.  They reference all aspects of the multitude of opportunities offered to boys in this book.  They are placed in seven loose vertical rows.  On the title page our main character is walking with his dog beneath the text.  A hummingbird is hovering above them.

Throughout the title the background colors are continually shifting from white, to blue, to green and to yellow.  Sometimes the illustration spans across two pages, smaller images are grouped on a full page and other pictures are on a single page, edge to edge.  Each picture follows and highlights the narrative.  There is motion and emotion in each scene carefully depicted by artist Kayla Harren.

Readers will find the details fascinating.  The boy and his father are both licking spatulas during a baking session.  The text is cleverly placed on a bulletin board in the boy's classroom.  On two separate pages being smart and brave are tied together with a bicycle riding lesson.  Readers will appreciate the continuity of the boy and his pup pictured together as much as possible.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is set on a white canvas.  A loosely framed beach scene is the setting.  On the upper portion of the picture is the water, sand and people enjoying the sunny day on towels and under umbrellas.  In the lower portion of the image is a sand fence.  In front of that on a path the boy is pulling a wooden wagon.  His younger sibling and white dog are riding in the wagon.  He is tossing a used water bottle into a recycling bin.  A butterfly is poised over the dog's nose.  The sun on the boy's t-shirt is wearing sunglasses.  On the youngest child's shirt is a butterfly.  The text reads

Leave every place you visit  . . . better than you found it.

Every time you read this book, whether it's the first time or the tenth time, you will feel the positive energy from the words and pictures soak into your soul.  A BOY like YOU written by Frank Murphy with illustrations by Kayla Harren is a title to have in every professional collection.  You will certainly want a copy for your personal bookshelves.  This book celebrates being exactly who you are meant to be.  There are an Author's Note about Being Strong and From the Author sections at the end.

To learn more about Frank Murphy and Kayla Harren and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Frank Murphy has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Kayla Harren has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  This title is highlighted with an interview with Frank Murphy on Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.  You can view the book trailer there. Frank Murphy and this book are featured on Writing and Illustrating, Kathleen Temean.  Author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi showcases Frank Murphy on INKYGIRL.  Kayla Harren has an extensive post at Writing and Illustrating, Kathleen Temean with loads of process art, numerous images and an interview.


  1. Beyond grateful for this comprehensive and stunning review!!! Thank you SO much, Margie!!!

    1. You're welcome, Frank. I've been thinking about your marvelous book for days. I booktalked it to a neighbor this evening. Thank you for your kind words here and in A Boy like You.