Friday, December 18, 2009

Looking Like Me

I am an big advocate of public education and have dedicated many years of my life to teacher preparation and school improvement. But, sometimes schools can be places that define a child in purely academic terms--you're either a good reader or not, good at math or not, a good test taker or not...especially in this time of state mandated testing. The pressure on schools, teachers, parents and ultimately children, can be overwhelming.

When my son was in elementary and middle school, he would come home so worried about the state test. Weeks and months leading up to the test would be spent on test taking skills and drills. I remember sitting down and talking with him about the fact that he is so much more than someone who does or doesn't do well on a test. He is a violinist, a runner, a soccer player, a best friend, a writer of poetry, a son, a grandson, a volunteer, a dog lover and on and on.

Yes, school is important and many decisions are made based on tests, but we are so much more than the sum of our test scores. This seems to be the message in Looking Like Me written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by his son, Christopher Myers. Below is a nice review of the book from Kirkus:


The Myerses-father and son-reunite for a poetic celebration of self that blends a sort of Whitman-esque hip-hop with '70s-vibe visuals. Adapting the cumulative cadences of Bill Martin's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Walter Dean Myers's text immediately establishes a preeminent self-affirmation: "I looked in the mirror / And what did I see? / A real handsome dude looking just like me." Narrator Jeremy hears from a succession of family, neighbors and community members and adds role after role to his portfolio. He's a brother, son, writer, city kid, artist, dancer, talker, runner, dreamer: "Looked in the mirror- / I look like a crowd." Christopher Myers overlays eclectic photo collages with stylized, silhouetted figures in saturated hues of chartreuse, butternut, chocolate, magenta and more. The text's two upper-case typefaces look like gritty, spray-painted stencils and whimsical woodcuts. There's a touch of call-and-response in the refrain ("He put out his fist. / I gave it a BAM!")that begs to be read aloud. This vibrant synthesis of poetry and pictures is a natural for classrooms and family sharing.

An interview with Walter Dean and Christopher Myers is available on the Follettee Liberary Resources website.

Looking Like Me celebrates every child, and every thing that every child can be." Publishers Weekly writes, "a funky, visually fluid funhouse that proves pigeonholes are strictly for pigeons."

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