I Can Be Anything! by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by Jimmy Liao
Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli is one of those favorite authors I share with my children, Maniac Magee and Stargirl probably being our all-time favorite Spinelli titles. I think this might be his very first picture book (Spinelli’s back flap bio mentions his 28 novels and 17 grandkids, but not another young kiddie title) – although kids of every age will definitely enjoy this one. The bright orange sticker on the cover, “Perfect for Graduation,” shows the marketing department has things figured out … many a BIG kid is going to be getting this along with their diplomas come spring …
Told in adorable, gigantic-print rhymes, an exuberant little boy (although he bears quite a resemblance to our daughter with her very short hair, energized blue overalls, blue suede shoes, and matching blue bunny to boot!) dreams big dreams of “what shall I be?” From paper-plane folder to puppy-dog holder, from barefooted hopper to bubble gum popper, from cheek-to-cheek grinner to dizzy-dance spinner, the child is so enthused at all the possibilities that he decides to choose them all! Why not … he’s young, he’s got time to try anything and everything!
As fun as Spinelli’s story is, what makes the book ideal is Jimmy Liao‘s playful drawings. Another kiddie favorite, Liao has over 30 book titles to his credit (and apparently no grandchildren as yet …). His jaunty, bright signature style perfectly captures the child’s energy, infusing him with indescribable FUN. In Liao’s whimsical world, the child stomps through puddles with two merry ducks leading the way, is unaware of a surprised caterpillar atop an oversized apple he’s about to crunch into, watches with bug-eyed wonder at a screen filled with make-believe creatures (one of whom might be himself), and naughtily sneaks off with the very best piece of birthday cake. Liao’s gleeful fun is downright contagious.