cover image Whoever You Are

Whoever You Are

Mem Fox, Leslie Staub. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200787-4

With a gentle and knowing calm, Fox (Time for Bed) provides a compelling exploration of the differences between children that make them unique as well as the common humanity that unites them. In Fox's picture book, divisions of culture, race and geography fall away in light of a global community where smiles, laughter and tears are universally understood. The simple, rhythmic text, written in the second person, is designed to involve the reader directly: ""Their lives may be different from yours,/ and their words may be very different from yours./ But inside, their hearts are just like yours."" Staub, a fine artist making her picture-book debut, renders multicultural subjects with broad, flat, friendly faces. Each stylized portrait of people from various countries at play, work or school is bordered by a hand-carved frame decorated with metallic paint and plastic jewels that may give readers the feeling of viewing postcards or pages in an album. Children get a taste of the pace of life in other places, with Asian children carrying produce to market or children in India studying in an outdoor classroom. Readers will also enjoy spotting an angel-cowboy figure, bedecked in a cloud-covered suit and hat, who accompanies children on each page of this poignant world tour. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)