Two children think about some big questions in Britt, Qualls, and Alko’s quiet picture book.
As the sun sets, two children—one with light brown skin and carrying a skateboard, the other light-skinned (possibly Asian or mixed-race) toting a guitar—travel home on the train. At almost the same moment each child happens upon the same thought: “Why am I me… / …and not you?” Deceptively simple, the question is nearly fractal in its infinite scope, and the children silently connect with each other as they explore some of its depth. Ponderings such as “If I were someone else, / who would I be? // Someone taller, / faster, / smaller, / smarter?” are echoed and expanded by corresponding thoughts: “If someone else were me, / who would they be? // Someone lighter, / older, / darker, / bolder?” No answers disrupt the silent exchange between the children—the questions are thrilling, and the adventure is in the asking. The illustrations’ mix of paint and collage style shows the fluid kinesis and multiculturalism of the world and people outside the train even as they fall subject to the children’s musings. A stunning visual climax that expands from children to stars and back again elegantly captures the boundless immensity of self within an individual, between two, and among many that the protagonists have been exploring.
A mindful, captivating ode to wonder and a must for any story- or bedtime repertoire. (Picture book. 4-9)