I Am I
Publication Date: May 30, 2006
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
Two small boys in warrior garb peer at each other across a deserted landscape. Each is suspicious of the other; each is proud and boastful. And so, an argument breaks out that grows bigger and bigger, until it threatens to consume them and everything around them.
In this unusual book words take flight, morph into birds, race down gullies and flood the page. I Am I is a memorable and stimulating mediation on the power of imagination and the power of words--and a visual tour de force by a gifted author and artist.
Mary-Louise Fitzpatrick is the author and illustrator of many award-winning books for children, including Lizzy and Skunk and I'm a Tiger Too! She lives in Dublin, Ireland.
Kirkus Reviews Two boys, one red-haired, the other blue-haired, on opposite sides of a river, challenge each other by declaring their superiority and importance. There protestations escalate to explosive shouting and a destruction of life within their surroundings. Hatred and blame subside into remorse and a unified acceptance of each other, all the while keeping to their side of the river, or in a magnified view, to their property and side of the front yard. Based on a Native-American concept that one cannot stand on both sides of a river at once nor belong to two cultures, Fitzpatrick has created a sophisticated work offering multiple perspectives and opportunity for discussion. The spare text of declarative short sentences, handwritten in a variety of styles in black ink, expresses the boys’ thoughts distinctly. Yet, it is the exquisite full-page vividly colored paintings portraying themes of tolerance and acceptance, the futility of violence and the symbolic renewal of life through sprouting red poppies that are integral in this parable. Its salience and poignancy will be appreciated on many levels. Publishers Weekly In this clever tale, Fitzpatrick's (Lizzy and Skunk) two protagonists put to the test the childhood mantra of sticks and stones. As the story opens, a blue-haired boy in a barren, almost prehistoric-looking landscape asserts his place at the center of the universe ("I Am I, King of everything!) while another equally assertive boy with red hair counters ("I am I, King of all I see!"). The two argue their respective worth, using their surroundings to up the ante (e.g., "My mountain is biggest"). Fitzpatrick draws upon a cultural river symbol that not only illustrates the boys' apparent separation, but ultimately drowns out their argumentative words. As the river gains strength, it washes the text off the page, the letters tumbling into the air. When the two spew new words of hate and venom, the water, along with their argument, spirals out of control and transforms into a fire-breathing dragon. A series of mini-boxes over several pages zero in on the protagonists, reducing the magnitude of their language and the boys themselves ("I am I and I feel very, very small"). Thanks to a cleansing rainstorm, water begins to flow once again, restoring fertility to the land and hope to the boys. A closing modern-day scene of the two children separated by their play space indicates the timelessness of the story's message: that humans must aspire to cross the universal divide in order to appreciate one another's differences. Ages 4-7. School Library Journal Starred Review Grade 2-5–I am I, King of everything! declares a blue-haired boy from a hilltop, but he soon sees another child claiming dominance from a nearby hill. Their words fly through the air and form a barbed-wire fence on both sides of a stream that separates them, and then create an obstruction causing a flood. Look at what you've done! DESTROYER! I hate you, hate you, hate you! shouts one child. Their words form a huge fire-breathing dragon that emerges from the water and parches the ground into a desolate scene. Finally, rainfall, remorse, and apologies set things right, with the land and with the youngsters. The story closes with each child again saying, I am I, this time without any claims of dominion–it's become a positive cry of individuality rather than one of ego or power. Bright poppies and two colorful and graceful birds visually reinforce the narrative, and the closing scene places the same children in a different setting, in a front yard next to a modern street. An artistically accomplished book, this is a departure for Fitzpatrick in terms of theme, but is as effective as her traditional picture books in composition and point of view. She uses very few words and communicates powerfully with pictures, portraying a vast landscape and the ancient elements of earth, air, fire, and water. This thought-provoking fable about competition and the capacity of words to wound and heal will be best understood and appreciated by older audiences. Lanuage Arts "No Child Left Behind: Literature that Captures What Standardized Tests Can't Measure" I AM I is an allegorical picture book that suggests humans have the power to make terrible mistakes, but also to learn from those mistakes and to heal. Two small boys, one with blue hair and one with red hair, throw out argumentative words across the landscape, bragging about who is best and who owns the most. The words become shapes, and morph into barbed wire that stands between them, and then begins to destroy the natural world around them. The boys realize what their hateful words have done and are sorry. Their apologetic words morph into colorful birds who land on their shoulders, and the healing begins. The artist includes symbols and dramatic perspectives, then gradually replaces the abstract landscape with a final grounding on a street in the city. These plus the spare text convey the powerful and timely message. This is a book to examine closely and ponder.