Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me? by Manjula Padmanabhan

I Am Different! Can You Find Me? by Manjula Padmanabhan

Padmanabhan, Manjula. 2011. I Am Different! Can You Find Me? Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. ISBN 9781570916397

I Am Different! is a children’s picture book created to show kids how interesting and fun learning about new cultures can be. Each page focuses on a different language from somewhere in the world, and highlights the phrase “Can you find me?” in that language. The phonetic pronunciation is included for each language to help readers speak the words properly. Each page also has a brief paragraph explaining more details about how widely the language is spoken and additional words from that language. The accompanying illustrations include a group of images, flowers, cars, ladders, etc., and ask the reader to find which object is different from the others on the page.

Padmanabhan has created a children’s book that is not only brimming with positivity and excitement but also includes fun puzzles guaranteed to interest young readers. The inclusion of a brief essay regarding languages around the world showcases Padmanabhan’s purpose for creating this book. She stresses the importance of not only noticing the differences in languages but also the similarities. The author includes well know languages like English, Chinese, and Italian, as well as dedicating pages to lesser known languages like Cree, Hawaiian, and Nahuatl. My favorite language showcased is American Sign Language, complete with pictures and instructions for the creation of the signs.

The text does not refer to physical descriptions, but emphasizes the importance of each language and the geographic locations of where the language is spoken. Occasionally Padmanabhan will include facts relating to the importance of the language. When referring to Navajo, Padmanabhan describes how that language was used to help create a code used in World War II. She makes each language appear unique and special, encourage her readers to learn more about languages spoken around the world.

The illustrations, also by Padmanabhan, showcase her background in cartooning and illustration for children. The illustrations are simply done with bright colors and pleasing shapes. There is one object on each page that is different from the others, and the author provides a key at the end of the book indicating the correct answer. However, she is quick to point out that there may be more than one correct answer and encourages her readers to let her know if other differences were found. Most of the illustrations are objects rather than human images. The Hawaiian language and American Sign Language are the only 2 instances in the book which have representations of someone who might speak that language. Cartoon versions of young Hawaiian girl’s faces, with dark skin and dark hair, are prominently displayed on the Hawaiian page. The American Sign Language page has photographs of a young, presumably American boy making the signs for “Can you find me”. Other than those 2 examples, it isn’t clear whether or not Padmanabhan tried to match her illustrations to the subject language or if they were chosen at random. The illustrations are clear enough that children of any age should be able to spot the one item that is different from the others.

I Am Different! Can You Find Me? is an excellent choice for introducing the differences and similarities of different languages and cultures from all over the world.

2012 USBBY’s Outstanding International Book Winner (K-2nd grade)

Positive review in Kirkus: “A substantive, engaging title for multilingual education. Bravo!”

Positive review in Booklist: “This colorful, original picture book provides an intriguing introduction to languages as well as differences.”

Review in Publisher’s Weekly: “Many of the distinctions are quite subtle (one straight line among curvy ones; a box without a match, a ladder with different colored rungs), which points to the book's understated message about the subjective nature of difference, but may frustrate readers.”

* Use in a discussion on world cultures and languages. Teach the children new words using the pronunciation guides on each page.

*Global Fund for Children books celebrating diversity:
Ajmera, Maya and Ivanko, John D. Come Out and Play. ISBN 9781570913853
Ajmera, Maya and Ivanko, John D. To Be a Kid. ISBN 9780881068412
Ajmera, Maya and Regan, Michael. Let the Games Begin. ISBN 9780881060676
Global Fund for Children. Global Babies. ISBN 9781580891745

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