About the Book:
Title: I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu
Author: Refiloe Moahloli
Illustrator: Zinelda McDonald
Pub. Date: February 1, 2022
Beagles and Books is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu published by Amazon Crossing Kids which aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In Southern Africa, ubuntu means connectedness. It is the belief that people form their identities based on their relationship with others. I Am You teaches children the meaning of ubuntu using a concise, melodic text and bold and expressive illustrations. As I read aloud the text and showed the first page spread to a first grade class, I asked them how they felt. Most students said happy. When I asked why, here are some of their responses.
- “The kids are smiling.”
- “The flowers are pretty.”
- “I love butterflies.”
As I continued to read aloud, I asked the children to check their feelings. Are your feelings changing or staying the same?
- “I still feel happy because I see animals in the tree and under the tree.”
- “I still feel happy because the girl is smiling hugging the tree.”
- “I still feel happy because the flowers on the tree look like cotton candy.”
After reading the next pages, I asked the same question. Children shared their continued feelings of happiness and explained why.
- “The kids are smiling and dancing.”
- “The boy can still dance in a wheelchair with the girl.”
- “They are having fun performing on stage under the lights.”
As I read the remainder of the story, I kept questioning kids about their feelings. Did they change or stay the same? As illustrations of kids smiling, hugging, sharing a scarf, dancing, laughing, happiness persisted. As I read the text, “We may look different, you and I…sound different, act different, eat different foods, and live in different places. But are hearts beat the same,” I posed the question-What is the author trying to teach us? One student responded with such conviction.
“We are all people that love things but we might not love the same thing. That’s ok because I can like something and someone can like something different like a food or a game.”
At my school, each class considers themselves a family. After reading the whole story, we discussed how this book helps them as a class. Collectively, we came up with this statement.
“When we are all being kind and helpful, our class will be happy. But if one person is being mean, it can hurt the whole class’ happiness.”
Wow! This first grade class knows the meaning of ubuntu. We are better together.
Praise for I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu
★“[Refiloe] Moahloli’s work makes for a stunning picture book for young readers and their grown-ups that focuses on our shared sense of community…. Celebrates our shared humanity and the strength in treating others with love and respect. A recommended first purchase.”
Journal (starred review)“An edifying, unifying picture book that’s much needed in these divisive times.”
About the Author:
Refiloe Moahloli is a bestselling South African picture book author. She is passionate about writing stories that bring out the best in the human spirit. She spent the early part of her career in the corporate world, but an eye-opening assignment to Mumbai led her to pursue her dream of becoming a full-time writer. She currently lives and works in Johannesburg. Learn more at refiloemoahloli.com, and follow her on Instagram @RefiloeMoahloli.
About the Illustrator:
Zinelda McDonald is an award-winning South African illustrator who lives in Wellington in the Western Cape of South Africa. She has illustrated numerous children’s books and is also a well-known designer and illustrator of children’s book covers. Awards for her work include the Alba Bouwer Prize and the Exclusive Books IBBY SA Award. Follow her on Instagram @Zinelda.