Debut author Cole and illustrator Embeli, in this energetic children’s book, question the importance of kids’ selecting future careers.
The narrator of this story, a curly haired, self-confident African-American girl, knows what she likes: “I believe I make the best choices for myself! / I know I can pick my favorite things from my shelf,” she rhymes. She dresses in flower prints and beads and bright colors, and when she arrives in a classroom full of kids in bland shirts, she begins to question why she stands out. Then she realizes that it’s career day and that she hasn’t brought props or a speech like her classmates have. While listening to a diverse group of her peers discuss their job choices (teacher, lawyer, astronaut, doctor, and engineer), she struggles to find a career concept for herself that feels right. At the same time, she lists the pressures of finding a “good” job. In a flower-filled, sunny dream that night, the girl decides that the only thing she wants to be when she grows up is herself. The next day, without props or a speech, she finally makes her presentation, saying that all children should embrace what makes them them instead of worrying about their future jobs, and her classmates praise her for being herself. Cole tells the story partly in verse but drops the rhymes as the children list their future job opportunities; as a result, the text scans unevenly, and its rhythmic shifts may be awkward for newly independent readers. But despite this faltering rhythm, it’s an encouraging story about a girl’s ability to regain her confidence and share what she believes that will resonate with children who aren’t as sure of themselves as the narrator is. Embeli effectively captures the narrator’s spirit and struggle with bright, colorful illustrations that frequently feature backgrounds in a tie-dye style.
A book that will be a hit with young readers, especially in schools with ethnically diverse student bodies.