This deceptively simple picture book about stories and storytelling packs a museum’s worth of culture and history into the scenery. I Am a Story shows us all the different ways words have moved us, and it’s an exhilarating trip.
Author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino opens with a scene of primitive people gathered around a fire while one of them points skyward; we can see that he’s describing the signs of the zodiac. The book ends with the same scene, only contemporized—a family on a camping trip, with the dad pointing out the constellations we know by those same signs. There are parallels like this throughout—stone tablets one era, iPads the next—and a red bird that appears in virtually every scene, now perched above the curtain at a Shakespeare play, then a tiny brooch on the lapel of a smiling librarian.
The bright colors and bold, modern style of the illustrations are cheering, and it’s amazing how many visual references Yaccarino pulls into this story: Japanese artist Hokusai’s iconic wave print; bookmobiles and Little Free Libraries, as well as libraries that travel by camel, donkey and elephant; the radio broadcast War of the Worlds; and Georges Méliès’ groundbreaking film A Trip to the Moon.
I Am a Story shows us in spare, elegant visual terms, that something as simple as a story is endlessly variable and everlasting. A powerful two-page spread simply reads, “I was censored, banned, and burned, but did not die.”
Read it, and then keep reading: Stories are all around you!