Written by Refiloe Moahloli
Illustrated by Zinelda McDonald
(Amazon Crossing Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
★Starred Review – School Library Journal
Originally published in South Africa, I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu written by Refiloe Moahloli and illustrated by Zinelda McDonald, is a stunning visual and textual reminder of our shared humanity that could not be more timely.
An ancient philosophy of many African cultures, ubuntu means “I am, because you are” and embraces the idea that “a person is a person through other people.” Opening lines emphasize this interconnectedness: “When I look into your eyes, I see myself.” On the following page, readers will need to turn the book vertically to enjoy a spread that illustrates this love, not only for others but for the natural world and all creation.
In loving, lyrical language, Moahloli’s text helps us realize that though the time we spend with others and the kindnesses we share may seem like small, inconsequential acts, they’re in fact powerful expressions of our deep love for each other and for our own selves. “[W]hen I laugh as I hear you laugh, when I hold your hands as you cry, I love you, and I love myself, too.” Similarly, if we choose to “hurt,” “tease,” or “ignore” another, we are committing those very acts on ourselves.
Rendered in digital media, McDonald’s bold and beautiful jewel-toned illustrations place an endearing cast of characters front and center in virtually every page. Readers are drawn into the smiling faces and welcoming gaze of an inclusive group of children from all backgrounds and abilities, playing together in country, city, and oceanside settings.
A great conversation starter for themes of community, friendship, kindness, and love, I Am You shines light on the truth that we are all one.
•Reviewed by Armineh Manookian