gua: Just 'Who Will I Be'
Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 7:42 p.m.
What do you think the future will be like?
Will we drive cars that float so we can zip above traffic jams? Will you go to school at night-time and sleep during the day? Do you think there will be cities on the moon or beneath the sea?
And where will you be in the future? What do you imagine you'll be doing when you grow up? In the new book, "Who Will I Be, Lord?" by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, a little girl wonders that same thing.
Once, a very long time ago, Great-Grandpap delivered the mail. But that wasn't all he did. Every weekend, he played banjo on the radio because TV didn't exist. When his children were born, Great-Grandpap gave up his radio job to make music with his family because nothing was more important than family. That's something "he learned from his own grandpa, who was a slave."
People said Great-Grandma was crazy when she married Great-Grandpap because she was white and he was not. Great-Grandma's own family refused to see her ever again when she got married. Maybe she was crazy - crazy in love!
Grandpa is a preacher who says he learned The Golden Rule from his mother. When he preaches, he doesn't holler - he whispers, but it reaches all the way up to heaven.
Grandma is a teacher, and you have to be very smart to do that. When children say they don't want to go to school, she tells them how lucky they are; people were once whipped for learning.
Grandma is proud of her education and wishes everybody could get one, too.
Uncle is a pool shark who carries red-hot cinnamons in his pocket. Cousin is a jazzman who makes his living by flipping burgers at the Diner. Mama says he has a dreamer's heart, but he tries and that's what matters.
Papa is a car man who makes everybody's vehicle as good as new. Sometimes, he's generous to people who don't have much money - just like Great-Grandpap, who lived in a time when people helped one another.
And Mama - well, she's Mama and she helps people, too. She has a gift for it.
But the little girl wonders and prays. What will she be, Lord? Who will she be? Will she ever know?
Like a lot of grown-ups, I'm always tickled at the multiple-choice answers that children give to the age-old "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question. "Who Will I Be, Lord?" adds a cute spin to that. Ever-so-subtly and with a repetitive refrain, author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson tells a story of one little girl's personal history and that of several different generations. The illustrations by Sean Qualls are simple and quietly colorful, which gives this sweet book a reflective feel that parents can love, too.
With this book around, expect lots of read-alouds in your future.
Terri Schlichenmeyer never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.
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