cover image I Want to Be

I Want to Be

Thylias Moss, Joel Ed. Moss. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1286-7

A much-lauded poet brings her gifts for stretching language and patterning images to the perennial, pedestrian query, ``What do you want to be?'' An African American girl ponders this question as she meanders home, and her thoughts seem to take as many detours as she does on her journey. She begins playfully--``I made a grass mustache, a dandelion beard, and bird nest toupee''--and grows ever more abstract: ``I double-dutched with strands of rainbow. Then I fastened the strands to my hair and my toes and became a fiddle that sunbeams played. Then I sang with the oxygen choir.'' When she reaches home, the girl voices a string of aspirations: ``I want to be quiet but not so quiet that nobody can hear me. I also want to be sound, a whole orchestra with two bassoons and an army of cellos. Sometimes I want to be just the triangle, a tinkle that sounds like an itch.'' Some readers may need to be guided through the kaleidoscope of metaphors that tumble across the pages; considering each image individually may elicit the greatest response. Pinkney's liquid watercolors, more impressionistic here than in A Starlit Somersault Downhill (see review above), also employ a more vibrant palette. Bright yellows, greens and reds suffused with light heighten the dreamlike quality of the text. Both author and illustrator push the limits of their arts; they deliver illusions with the texture of truth. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)