Allison's Book Bag

I am the World by Charles Smith Jr.

Posted on: February 26, 2014

From award-winning poet and photographer Charles Smith, Jr. comes a book which celebrates the children of the world through poetry and photography. While the poetry is average and the design is sometimes random, the photos are bold and lavish. I also appreciated the handling of diversity. I am the world is a quick and easy read with a positive message, which should please parents and teachers alike.

The prose seems to follow the pattern of one popular type of writing in schools, that of I AM poems. While there’s nothing exceptional about Smith’s verse, his one-liners sometimes rhyme and, when read aloud, have a pleasing beat. Some lines can be read by younger readers: “I am the world, I am strong….” Others are better suited to older readers: “I am the bite in bratwurst. I am the snap in biscotti.” Because I AM poems are studied in school, I am the world will feel familiar to students, and so it can serve as a launching pad for teachers in helping students create their own “I am the world” poems. Moreover, the pro-diversity message in I am the world is perfect. We aren’t just colors, foods, costumes, or language. We’re all of these things combined.

The photos are of strong quality, although the design is sometimes more random. On the first few pages photos are placed on top of a white background, but for the remaining pages they are placed on top of a black background. Sometimes text is average size and other times it’s small or big. While this can be done intentionally for a playful effect or emphasis, that does not seem to be the case here. While it didn’t bother me, and probably won’t bother most young readers, some critics did correctly note that text occasionally obscures the photo it describes. On the plus side, the photos are prominent and for the most part fit the text. Also, each line of poetry has a word in a color which matches the color of the outfit being worn by the child in the portrait. Expressions also seem to match the description, with serious faces being shown to accompany lines about warriors and queens and happy faces being shown to match lines about food and fashion.

I am the world might contain lackluster poetry, but it is a highly visual book with a profound sentiment. It might also serve to inspire readers to create their own I AM photo poems. Already I’m seeing maple leafs and thinking, “I am the sweet of maple sugar.” I AM poems are both easier and harder to write than you might think. Borrow I am the world by Charles Smith, search for other I AM poems online, and start creating your own masterpieces today.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

2 Responses to "I am the World by Charles Smith Jr."

What a great book this would be for any child. I think it should be required reading for elementary students.

Even in high school, I could see students creating their own photo poems on the theme of I AM THE WORLD.

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