What Will You Be?

HarperCollins/Harper. May 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062839954.
PreS-K–All the other children, one tan with a mop of black hair, another Black with natural hair, and a third, white with orange hair, nag the heroine to say what she will be when she grows up. “Clown” and “unicorn” as choices do not satisfy them, so she, with light brown skin and two skinny black braids, goes to her abuela in the art studio where bright paints and pots are lined up. Abuela wisely provides the answer: “Listen.” The child listens to her heart and then paints the loftiest of dreams, from building a home that welcomes everyone to walking the roads her ancestors built, from healing bones to mending hearts. The dimension and scale of the answers grow interplanetary, and her abuela reminds her that if she needs help, many hands can accomplish what one person cannot. This is a prayer to personal power, a license to dream big, and permission to keep moving forward, beyond proscribed or limiting roles. In the end, the child and abuela leave the art studio, having finished a giant mural on which some of these plans have been painted. The illustrator’s friendly scenes of zeal and cooperation will inspire others to aim high, and the message of the book is delivered lightly, but well.
VERDICT Turning a common question of childhood into a substantive quest, this imaginative set of plans will have other children charting their own course through the stars.

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