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BOOK REVIEWS, Early/Young Readers, Middle Grade Readers, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, The Arts

LOOKING LIKE ME by Walter Dean Myers

I LOVE this picture book!  One of the most exciting things to me is the way in which I found it:  I was reading Sharon Creech’s wonderful book written in free verse, LOVE THAT DOG.  The main character is a young boy who narrates his journey, led by his classroom teacher, into the world of poetry and the wonderful things it can mean in and add to his life.  In the course of their poetry unit he is exposed to the poet Walter Dean Myers who quickly becomes his favorite after he reads Deans’ poem LOVE THAT BOY.

Reading Ms. Creech’s book spurred me to investigate Mr. Walter Dean Myers and I found that he is not only a poet, but has a vast body of work for young adult and middle grade readers, as well as this fantastic picture book.

LOOKING LIKE ME refers to each individual looking in the mirror and seeing all of the people they are and all of the peaope they can be.  We are defined in terms of our relationships:  mother, father, sister, brother, friend.  We are defined by our likes and dislikes.  We are defined by our talents.

The narrator of the book discovers not only can he create a list of the things that define him, but that he can discover things in himself of which he was unaware by listening to those around him.

For example, I might not realize I have a talent for drawing until someone I love and respect comments favorably on a drawing I have done.  I may not realize that compassion defines me until a friend I have helped says a heartfelt thank you when I take time out of my day to help or comfort her.

The book is illustrated in magnificent collage style by Christopher Myers (the author’s son).  It’s bold colors and shapes stand out from the page in a way that is accessible and recognizable to the reader.

Each time the narrator discovers a new characteristic about himself he gives the other person (including himself in the mirror) a fist bump. I often use this action to make the story interactive with my listeners, whether it is my own children or a full classroom.

I have used this as a read-aloud selection in 3rd and 4th grades.  It is a magnificent discussion starter for all kinds of topics related to self-esteem and how we become and define ourselves.  It lends itself as a great introduction to art activities using self-expression and collage technique.  It can also be used to begin teaching brainstorming or interviewing techniques to be used in writing assignments later in the year.

It is a great conversation starter at home for self-esteem issues as well.

I highly recommend this picture book for both classroom and home libraries.


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