“A sweet message of self worth with rhymes and illustrations that struggle at moments.”
Featuring a sweet message from writer and actress Byers about valuing oneself, I Believe I Can progresses through a series of illustrations of children in action. In the opening pages, two kids pretend to be pirates using cardboard boxes. In other pages, a boy and a girl dress up in costumes. There are kids gardening, kids playing on a playground, and kids practicing ballet. In each scene, the children share positive affirmations related to self worth. “Grounded firm, I’m like the soil. / Like the sky, I’m boundless too. / When I believe in myself, / there’s simply nothing I can’t do.” The children depicted are a pointedly diverse group: along with the ethnic diversity the children display, they also possess a wide range of physical characteristics. There are notable examples of weight and size differences, one girl with no hair who may be a cancer survivor, and children who wear glasses, use wheelchairs, and sign—a nod perhaps to Byer’s own growing up in a home with deaf parents. Byer’s rhyming and cadence is powerful at times but struggles as well. “I may not win at all I do. / I may experience defeat. / But I’ll dust off and try again / to be the best that I can be.” Indeed, readers may even be slow to pick up that the story features rhymes as the first rhyme is “deep” and “peak.” Bobo’s illustrations fill solid white pages with colorful depictions of active children, but some look particularly basic with angle and proportions to characters’ bodies that feel amateurish.
Grace Byers is an actress and activist whose breakout role was in Fox’s smash hit series Empire and who also starred on Marvel’s The Gifted. As a multiracial girl and CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Grace was bullied throughout her childhood, which inspired her first picture book, the New York Times bestseller I Am Enough—an ode to the empowerment of young girls. In her spare time, Grace volunteers with the nonprofit antibullying organization Saving Our Daughters. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Trai Byers.
To us all: There will always be one person who might not believe in you; let that person never be you. X
Keturah A. Bobo is an artist whose dedication to creating vibrant images that depict diversity has gained her attention worldwide. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Ohio with her family of entrepreneurs. She is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of I Am Enough. Visit www.keturahariel.com.
To my brothers, Jaryah and Shamir, and all those who believe in love and optimism despite the world making you feel as though you cannot
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