STARRED REVIEW
August 29, 2017

A celebration of ourselves and each other

By Paige Britt & Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Review by

Perfect for a lesson on identity, multiculturalism and diversity, Why Am I Me? is less a story and more an open door for discussion. Every day we encounter other people—heading to work, playing in the park, walking down city streets, filling up the subway car. How often do we truly ponder those around us?

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Perfect for a lesson on identity, multiculturalism and diversity, Why Am I Me? is less a story and more an open door for discussion. Every day we encounter other people—heading to work, playing in the park, walking down city streets, filling up the subway car. How often do we truly ponder those around us?

Linguistically very simple, Why Am I Me? relies on its artwork to open up the many cultures and lives all around us. Illustrators Selina Alko and Sean Qualls draw on their own Brooklyn experiences to fill the pages with a busy, inviting city. A cleverly placed star ties the book together, reminding us of all that we have in common. Artistic, soft renderings of faces and objects address not only our outward appearances but also musical skills, athletic endeavors and family makeup. Some faces are detailed and expressive, while others are vaguely traced in the background, keeping the artwork focused without losing its aesthetic. Details like subways, skateboards and a cat in a window give us a sense of place and belonging. As an extra artistic note, small scraps of text (newsprint, fiction, reference books, textbooks) are collage-style tucked under colorful storefronts and buildings. Certain bits of text pop out, inviting us to look more closely and ponder the artists’ intent.

Author Paige Britt keeps the text minimal and simple, opening the discussion without lecturing. Little readers may have many questions about the people painted on the page, making this a good first look at diversity for little ones, and could provide thoughtful writing prompts for older students.

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Why Am I Me?

Why Am I Me?

By Paige Britt & Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Scholastic
ISBN 9781338053142

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