I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

I Am Every Good Thing cover image

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (9780525518778)

From the team that created Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut comes a new picture book that speaks in the voice of a Black boy about who he is. He is a leader, thanks to his endless energy. He is every good thing in the world, good to his core, “like the center of a cinnamon roll.” He is skinned knees and getting back up again. He is a scientist exploring his world. He is polite and ready to learn. He is wildly creative, exploring and absorbing information. He is laughter and smiles, the perfect beat and rhyme. He is an athlete, a brother, a son, and much more. He is hugs, support and love. He is not what people call him, but what he knows himself to be inside, sometimes a superhero, and always worthy of love.

This is a book all about empowerment, of seeing your own identity and holding it clear against what society may say about you. It’s a book that all children need, but Black boys most of all, as they are targeted and threatened by the world they live in. It is a book that insists and demands that Black children are every sort of wonderful thing, all wrapped into one person. The text is a poem, playing out across the pages, reminding and telling readers that they are valued and important.

The art by James is gorgeous, centering on the main protagonist in the story, but also showing many other Black boys on the pages with different skin tones, hair and emotions. There are several breathtaking pages, including the final smile on the last page that will stick with readers as he looks right into your eyes.

Another amazing picture book from this team. This book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Nancy Paulsen Books.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

Displacement cover image

Displacement by Kiku Hughes (9781250193544)

This historical graphic novel takes a modern-day teen and puts her back in time. Kiku is vacationing with her mother in San Francisco, when she first travels through time back to World War II. As the mists form around her, she finds herself watching her grandmother play her violin as a teen. It happens again the next morning, when Kiku finds herself joining the line of Japanese-American people heading for the internment camps. Those experiences were shorter. But then Kiku finds herself back in time for a longer period as she experiences the internment camps herself. She lives near her grandmother, but can’t bring herself to actually meet her face to face. As Kiku witnesses and actually lives the experiences of Japanese-Americans in the internment camps, seeing how they suffered, the restrictions, the injustice but also the communities that were formed in the camps.

Hughes uses a dynamic mix of modern and historical in this graphic novel. She takes the sensibilities of a modern teen and allows readers to see the world through Kiku’s eyes. When Kiku is stuck in time, readers get to experience the full horror of the internment camps and what our country did to Japanese-Americans. Hughes ties our current political world directly to that of the camps, showing how racist policies make “solutions” like internment camps more likely to happen. She also keep hope alive as well, showing Kiku making friends and also developing a romantic relationship with a girl she meets.

The art is done in full color throughout. The color palette does change between modern day and the internment camps, moving from brighter colors to more grim browns, grays and tans. Hughes uses speech bubbles as well as narrative spaces that let Kiku share her thoughts. There are no firm frames here, letting colors dictate the edges of the panels.

Timely and important, this is a look at what we can learn from history and stop from happening now. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.