In their latest venture, Curtis and Cornell tackle the question of identity and deconstruct it to a level young people can understand.
To prompt her students’ journeys of self-discovery, the Asian-American teacher/narrator starts by telling the story of her great- grandmother who “came from a far, distant place. She came on a boat with just this small case” filled with the things she loved best. “What would YOU take?” the teacher asks her class. Curtis does a fine job spanning the broad spectrum of America’s children today (as does Cornell in her playful, full-of-details signature style). “My baby-tooth tin,” says a blonde, white girl with orthodontic headgear. “Abuelo’s beret, my ukulele, my St. Christopher medal to look out for me,” says a grinning Latino boy. Most choices are to be expected—a Barbie doll, Nintendo DS—but some are perplexingly from the wrong generation: how many kids will get “my Groucho Marx glasses / Weird Al–signed CD”? Overall, kids will find Curtis’ “to know yourself, you must know your roots” message resonant and will be scrambling to fill the pop-up suitcase at the back of the book with items that say to the world, “HI THERE, THIS IS ME!” (The library edition omits the problematic-for-circulation final pop-up flourish.)
An excellent springboard for school-age kids to discover who they are and where they come from. (Picture book. 5-9)