cover image I Am Every Good Thing

I Am Every Good Thing

Derrick Barnes, illus. by Gordon C. James. Penguin/Paulsen, $17.99 ISBN 978-0-5255-1877-8

With a refrain that reads “I am,” the creators of the award–winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut craft an empowering ode to Black boy joy. In metaphor-driven verse, Barnes moves from the interpersonally specific (“I am that smile forming on your face”) to the iconic (“I am a grand slam,/ bases fully loaded”), and from the naturalistic (“I am waves crashing gently on the shore”) to the historical (“I am my ancestors’ wildest dream”). Employing rich textures and jewel tones in his fine art style, James paints Black boys of varying skin tones and ages engaging in work and play, solo and in community: flying through the air in a cape, getting back up after a skateboard tumble, working with a microscope, and assisting a grandmother crossing the street. A line of uncertainty interrupts the litany, offering a somber moment: “Although I am something like a superhero,/ every now and then,/ I am afraid.” But the text quickly moves on, speaking to Black boys’ deservingness “of success,/ of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.” Together, James’s energetic portraiture and Barnes’s affirming text powerfully and ecstatically convey the idea that all Black boys are “worthy/ to be loved.” Ages 3–7. (Sept.)