Today we’re highlighting a girl book! I’m not usually the type to reach for the pink-iest pink or the bow-iest bow, but I absolutely loved Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Just Like Me, a book of poems for and about girls. Starting with the bright pink endpapers, this short picture book of poems is full of words and images celebrating girls of all colors, sizes, and personalities. There are shy girls and loud girls, girls who live in the country and the city, who have pimples and wear hair ribbons and boxing gloves and braids. Many people have written about the idea of children’s books as “windows and mirrors,” where books function as mirrors for kids to see themselves and their own stories reflected, and windows, for them to see others’ experiences. To me this book is a perfect example of both a mirror book and a window book. Every girl turning these pages will see someone “just like me,” with the same hair or skin color, the same personality, the same smile. And they will also see girls who are different from them; “like a paper chain/made up of every single color…. each one reaching out/until our link crosses this world.” I love that message of both individuality and teamwork as forces for good in the world.
Readers might be familiar with Brantley-Newton’s illustrations in other picture books or early chapter books, in a variety of styles. Here, each page is a rich visual treat; these illustrations were created with a gorgeous hodge-podge of materials, and the different textures and techniques of the art are beautiful to examine. The copyright page lists acrylic paint, gouache, charcoal, pencil, oil pastels, handmade and collage papers, and, crucially, “lots of magic.” It made me want to get out my own art supplies!
The poems themselves are lovely, too. I especially appreciated one called “The Day I Decided to Become Sunshine.” A desire to “shine the light/of kindness into my every move” is certainly something that we could all use right now! I also loved that the poems cover a variety of emotions that girls of different ages might be experiencing. One poem celebrates being a little sister and enjoying cuddles and bedtime stories, for example, while others tackle the challenges of slightly older girls, like the making new friends at school and the embarrassment of getting a pimple just before picture day. Reading through these poems gives a boost of self-esteem and confidence, inspiring girls to go out and tackle the world as their unique selves, special and weird and full of feelings. I hope you can get your hands on this one and read through it with a special girl or two!