cover image I AM AMERICA


Charles R. Smith, Jr.. Scholastic/Cartwheel, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-43179-8

"I am America. I am proud," announces Smith (Rimshots ) in large, bold type at the star-spangled opening of this eye-catching photographic anthem. Smith captures his multiracial subjects in two- and three-picture series as the text sings a paean to individuality and inclusion. "I am almond eyes./ I am a proud nose./ I am cheeks freckled the color of a rose." Smith's theme is a perennially popular one ("I am America,/ and America is me"), and if the text has a familiar ring, the photos have an instant freshness. Most of the kids gleefully mug for the camera, caught indulging in the kind of behavior that usually prompts adults to say, "Stop fooling around so I can take this picture!" A preteen girl takes off her bandanna and holds it over her face to play peek-a-boo, then assumes a faraway look that suggests a private reverie; a boy with a lollipop shows off his tinted tongue and then uses the candy to give his cheek a squirrel-like bulge. The pictures' mischievous spontaneity brings to mind the giddiness of repeated sessions in a photo booth. Laid out on high-voltage solid-colored backgrounds that change from page to page, the photos are framed in thin contrasting bands that make them seem to vault off the paper. Lots of fun. All ages. (Nov.)