Black History Month Kid Lit Review of “I Am Every Good Thing”

This book is dedicated to Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, EJ Bradford, Jordan Edwards, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, and Julian Mallory.  Author Derrick Barnes explained in an interview:

“I thought about all of the people who care about those young men that I dedicated the book to, and all of the Black and Brown boys who just want to grow up and be somebody, who just want to live in a world where they are not criminalized or seen as an adult as soon as they gain some size and height, around ages 11 and 12.”

Each page shows black and brown children celebrating what is good about them, things that are in fact what are good about all children.

“I am skateboard tricks,
Scraped knees and
elbows.”

“I am kind and polite, like, ‘yes, ma’am,’ and ‘yes, sir,’
Helping my grandmother cross the street, and
Saying ‘bless you’ when a stranger
Has to sneeze.”

“I am Saturday mornings in the summertime.”

“I am that smile forming on your face right now.”

The book then segues into a section perhaps more meaningful for children of color:

“Although I am something like a superhero,
Every now and then,
I am afraid.

I am not what they might call me,
And I will not answer to any name
That is not my own.
I am what I say I am.”

The book ends with a stirring affirmation:

“I am worthy of success, of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness.

And without a shadow of a doubt, I am worthy to be loved. I am worthy to be loved.”


Illustrator Gordon C. James, recipient of a number of honors for his art work, shows children doing homework, playing, studying, spending time with their families, loved and being loved, all in richly colored oil paintings.

In an interview, James said:

“I made a running list of everything that embodies the emotions, actions, goals, desires, strengths and weaknesses of my own sons. Every tangible and intangible quality covers a broad spectrum of what it means to be a little boy—maybe riding his bike without training wheels for the first time, or a teenager who somebody prays for at night. I wanted for young readers reader to see themselves in all of these emotions and scenes, and for parents to see these boys the way they see their own children.”

Evaluation: Self-esteem and confidence are the main themes of this ode to children, especially all the black and brown boys who may experience fear and self-doubt in the face of race-based cruelty and injustice.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2020

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