It’s coming to the end of the week and I have two fantastic picture books I wanted to talk about before the weekend begins! Thanks to partner Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada, I will be taking a look at I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James as well as Over the Shop by JonArno Lawson and Qin Leng; Happy weekend and happy reading, all!
“I am every good thing that makes the world go round. You know- like gravity, or the glow of moonbeams over a field of brand-new snow. I am good to the core, like the center of a cinnamon roll. Yeah, that good.” You might recognize children’s author Derrick Barnes and artist Gordon C. James as the creators of the extraordinary Crown: An Ode to a Fresh Cut, a multiple award-winner. In I Am Every Good Thing, the collaborators return with an outstanding, inspiring picture book. Following the first-person narratives of young Black boys, I Am Every Good Thing is a lyrical celebration of everything magnificent and excellent that Black boys are, have been, will be, and deserve to be: “I am brave. I am hope. I am my ancestors’ wildest dream. I am worthy of success, of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.”. While overwhelmingly upbeat and sparkling in its poetic verses, I Am Every Good Thing also speaks against harmful negative assumptions and speaks powerfully to racism faced by Black boys: “I am not what they might call me and I will not answer to any name that is not my own”. Barnes’s lyricism is masterful here as it in Crown: An Ode to a Fresh Cut, while the striking and effusive oil paint illustrations by James are a perfect match in thoughtfulness and exuberance. Overall, I Am Every Good Thing is a potent picture book that speaks and sings on multiple levels- a must-read.
Turning now to wordless picture books, Over the Shop is a gorgeous collaboration from award-winning author and poet JonArno Lawson (Sidewalk Flowers, with Sydney Smith) and Qin Leng (A Family Is A Family Is A Family written by Sara O’Leary) At the center of this deeply endearing read is a delightful and determined little girl and her grandparent who runs a general store. In what appears to be a neighbourhood with closely packed buildings and neighbours almost within arms reach, the young girl and her grandparent are seemingly isolated within their storefront. When the young girl’s grandparent advertises the apartment above their store for rent, a steady stream of curious people trail inside their general store and make for some excitement, but the interested renters all end up disappearing when they see the bare apartment in question. Undaunted by the prospect of a place that needs a lot of work and affection, however, a lovely young couple who see the sign at the last minute (and perhaps bolstered by the happy persistence of the little girl!) decide to take on the apartment. Without giving away much more of the story here, I will add that Over the Shop is a glorious, serenely unfolding read featuring themes of love, community, and (found) family. Over the Shop is also a continuing testament to the potency of wordless stories as well as the magic of JonArno Lawson’s storytelling in combination with Qin Leng’s renderings. With its beautifully delineated story arcs, and Leng’s delicious ink and watercolour illustrations, with delicate rainbow details throughout, Over the Shop is a deeply satisfying read- and one perfect for relishing upon multiple reads. Extras: There is a lovely review of Over the Shop over on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast that also includes a peak at a number of illustrations from the book!
I received copies of I Am Every Good Thing and Over the Shop courtesy of Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.