Who Am I? By Julie Buchholtz, illustrated by Aliya Ghare

Review by Deborah K. Frontiera

Who am i?.Filled with metaphor, reading like a prose poem, the author of Who Am I? speaks through a mother and her young daughter to teach the youngster about the interconnectedness of life on Earth. The child asks who she is and the mother answers with a series of metaphors. The child realizes her place in it all along the way and drifts off to sleep knowing that she is not small, but part of everything.

The story relates the Native American philosophy that everything on Earth is interconnected, and the illustrations show that the mother and child are Native American, in “modern dress” but with Native American earrings and hair ornaments. But the central idea of the book is not limited to that group. The mother and daughter with their “brown skin” could just as easily be Hispanic—another type of Native American. The illustrator adds to that message by including white and black children in several of the scenes, the message that all human beings are also connected to each other.

Just in case the children who hear the words read to them and gaze at the wonderful art don’t “get it”, the author has these final words: “Do you know that YOU too are connected? In fact, we are ALL connected to one another and to this wonderful planet we call home or Mother Earth. It is our job to take care of Mother Earth just as you would take care of yourself. Doing so will allow future generations to be safe, happy, and healthy.”

Up notable books logo.Picture books are meant to be read aloud to young children, and the text flows gently as poetry, as smoothly as the river pictured on one page. Text and illustrations work perfectly together. For example, the first reply from the mother to her child’s question, “Who am I?” is: “You are the wind that scatters, moving seeds across the field, providing nourishment for our people.” In a dreamy top half of the page, the little girl, in swirling blue “wind” blows seeds from a dandelion, while below lies a field of ripe maze and bright red tomatoes on vines. Each page has the same richness through symbols of fire, an eagle, sun, stars, moon, a wolf, and many more.

Who Am I is a book I can’t wait to read to preschoolers the next time I’m the leader for my local library’s “Story Time”, and then donate to be part of that library’s collection since my own grandchildren are way beyond the picture book stage.

Who Am I?
By Julie Buchholtz, illustrated by Aliya Ghare
ISBN 978-1-53411-181-3
children’s picture book ages 4-8, hard back,
Sleeping Bear Press 2023, Ret. $18.99, Own Voices Award and U.P. Notable Books 2023


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