Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Can Be Anything!

Week of March 25, 2012—New Books on My Shelf
Wednesday, March 28, 2012—I Can Be Anything!

If you see Jerry Spinelli’s name on the cover of a book, you’d be wise to stop and thumb through the book.  Spinelli won the Newberry Award for Maniac Magee and his novel, Wringer, was a Newberry Honor Book. I use his memoir, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, as a resource when I teach memoir to student writers. Spinelli speaks frequently to teachers, librarians, and students.

So when I saw Spinelli’s name on the front of I Can Be Anything! in the picture book section of our school’s Scholastic Book Fair, I had to pick it up. Written by Spinelli and illustrated by Jimmy Liao, the book was released by Little Brown and Company in 2010. I was delighted when I flipped through the pages. And I couldn’t help myself, I bought the book on the spot.

The art is charming. The illustrations are filled with activity (and sometimes over-sized objects), and the typography makes the text playful. This book is not a master’s class in plot. It is a master’s class in word choice.

Spinelli begins the text with . . .

            When I grow up,
            what shall I be?
Of all the many, many jobs,
which one will be the best for me?

You got it, a rhyming picture book. But the stanzas end with the intro and Spinelli presents rhyming pairs of jobs that the child might choose. But wait—these aren’t your “normal” jobs. No firemen, bakers, teachers, or police officers here. Those jobs are way too small for the world of this book. Instead, Spinelli offers jobs such as:
Pumpkin grower
            Dandelion blower
            Mixing-bowl licker
            Tin-can kicker
            Deep-hole digger
            Lemonade swigger

Twenty-four jobs, twelve pairs in all, and then a beautiful closing . . .

            So many jobs!
            They’re all such fun—I’m going to choose .
. .

Well, you’ve have to buy the book to see how it ends. But I can promise you the ending will surprise you in more ways than one.

Simple is never simple is it? This appears to be a simple text. It’s short. But simple? No. It’s well thought out and crafted. The rhyme seems simple. But with all the jobs that could have been chosen, those included in this book didn’t happen without thought and planning. And the message which seems so simple—I can be anything—is actually a deep, compelling realization.

I Can Be Anything! Buy it. Read it. Learn from it.

1 comment:

Christie Wright Wild said...

This is a message I think a lot of writers want to instill in readers. Or at least it's an important message that I'D like to relay in (future) school visits.