I Am Every Good Thing is a picture book, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James. The beautiful words and accompanying breathtaking images represent the ultimate Black Boy Joy, as the young child narrates his delight in life and ideas for the future. In a Q&A about his book, Barnes said that he wants, in part, for people to take from the book that, “No matter where Black boys come from, I along with the people that love them want them to win in life. They are not living breathing stereotypes that fit like jigsaw pieces into your biases, only useful for your entertainment, and to justify your ridiculous fears. They are human beings capable of extraordinary feats.”
This book, with its fantastic metaphors, reminds me of the “I Am” poetry my own young students would author – celebrations of uniqueness and life. But, of course, there is another dimension to this work as we not only see a child seeking to be accepted for his remarkable traits, but one who some unjustifiably view as threatening merely because of the color of his skin. James, who used his own son as the model for the oil painting on the cover of the book, says in this NPR story that he wanted to portray his child “looking like how I feel he sees himself and how we see him as his family.”
I Am Every Good Thing is a book for boys, girls, and families of every color. It is also for every age. Many educators can tell you the value of picture books grows in secondary classrooms, where new experiences and understanding can help teenagers see reading as both an enjoyable pastime and an invitation to think deeply. For discussion ideas and other reading suggestions, use this Learning Guide created by Tiffany Jewell (author of This Book is Anti-Racist) along with the book. Whether using the book in a history class as you discuss civil rights, or a language class where your students are learning about writing devices (see this mashup of Song of Myself and I am Every Good Thing shared on Twitter by @PaulWHankins) this book will be a gift to everyone who reads it.
This post is part of a weekly series of anti-racist articles. For previous posts in this series, please visit this link.