I'M NOT by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Robert Weinstock (Schwartz & Wade, 2011)
If Evelyn was a book, you'd read her all night under the covers to see what happens next...
When Evelyn comes over, she changes my room, my scales, my worm.
She's a wonderful decorator. I'm not...
Evelyn is lots of things.
Queen of England.
I'm not...I'm not...I'm not.
This book focuses realistically (as you can be with amphibians wearing hair bows) and hilariously on a little alligator girl's quest to discover what she might possibly be that could shine alongside the many talents and feats of her companion, feeling rather inadequate all the while. Luckily, the narrator is something Evelyn can't be: a true blue friend for Evelyn, and the last pages sing: "I am! I am! I am!" At first, I was a little lukewarm about the wan, poop-colored cover, but once a few pages were turned, it only added to the humor; stylistically, somebody read a lot of James Marshall. A natural part of child development is discovering what you're good at (or not), and many children going through that self-deprecating stage, or prone to unnecessary comparisons with peers, will discover some very heartening perspective within these pages. Stop laughing? I'm not. (5 and up)
Also of interest:
The other side of the coin? Well-meaning but only partial redemption of a picture book narcissist may be found in Lucy Cousin's I'M THE BEST, in which a doggy has to find a balance between his own self-esteem and a recognition of what's best about his buddies, a bit of a throwback to Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Kay Chorao's 1970's gold star picture book, I'M TERRIFIC, in which a little bear rewards himself prolifically for his greatness, while his friends struggle to get him in check.
Speaking of terrific, and if you like these kind of themes, are you familiar with one of my new favorite blogs, BOOKS THAT HEAL KIDS? I am not a fan of bibliotherapy per se, as I consider all well-written children's books to be character-building, and I am fearful about navigating through shelves of books written with issues in mind instead of children. But to my hesitation, this site says too-shay! I can't resist these thoughtful and sensitive selections, so brilliantly reviewed. Check it out!
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