Imagination, ingenuity and passion combine on the pages of this inspiring tribute to children of color. The poetic composition by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley (I Love My Hair!; The Harlem Charade), coupled with the ingenious photography of Regis and Kahran Bethencourt (Glory: Magical Visions of Black Beauty), results in an exquisite book that trumpets the magic and unlimited potential of young lives.
The Bethencourts' imagery mirrors the boldness of Tarpley's words. A child with flowing hair adorned with dozens of bright flowers waters a garden alongside the lines "I AM A GARDENER/ planting dreams the world will know!" The photos' use of light and shadow emphasizes Tarpley's tone: in a rainbow-filled spread, a smiling youth stands next to the text "I AM A HOME/ where love lives at the center"; in another spread, a child is surrounded by darkness and fire, with the words "I AM A SUPERHERO/ yet unnamed." The models' expressions are natural and authentic, including spirited, open-mouth laughs, mischievous grins and thoughtful countenances. These raw portrayals not only exude beauty and confidence, they also invite the audience to linger on the pages and absorb all the fine details present: hair adornments, fabric prints, backgrounds. The focus is always sharp, reinforcing the clarity of each child's individual charm.
Taken individually, the photographs and text are exceptional. Blended together, they create a book of outstanding aspiration and inspiration. Young children of color should revel in the beauty of the subjects that bear resemblance to them. And readers of any race can find insight into their own potential and ambitions. The Me I Choose to Be is a striking book with a powerful question for everyone: Who is the me you choose to be? --Jen Forbus, freelancer