1.25.2011

I'm Not, not illustrated by Pam Smallcomb and not written by Robert Weinstock


I'm Not, written by Pam Smallcomb and illustrated by Robert Weinstock is a gem of a book and feels like an instant classic.  I've read it a couple of times at story time and it just keeps getting better.  Of course, it resonates for me because it speaks to the best books of my childhood. The shy narrator and her best friend Evelyn are brown and green crocodiles who, visually and personally remind me very much of James Marshall's George and Martha and Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad.





The premise of the book is a simple and standard theme in kid's picture books. Finding out what you are good at in this world.  And friendship.  As Robert Weinstock succinctly and humbly described the book in response to a gushing bit of fan mail I sent him,


Am so glad you liked I’m Not. It was a total pleasure getting to to do the pix for Pam’s book and I hope everyone knows that what has always distinguished this book are Pam’s incredibly great, simple, crisp words. I’m still amazed how she made something which could have sounded so hackneyed and cloying read so fresh and fun.

So well put!  Much like Lucy Cousins I'm the Best, I'm Not takes us through the friendship of the narrator and her best friend Evelyn but in a very clever, twisty way that doesn't hurt anyone's feelings or put anyone down.  In I'm the Best Dog competes against his friends and wins every time, leaving the friends feeling pretty low.  When the friends realize that they are good at things and compete with Dog, he loses every race and feels low.  In the end, they all get together to cheer him up by telling him he is the BEST friend.  With I'm Not, the narrator begins the story by telling us all of the things that Evelyn is good at or interested in and the things that she is not.  Evelyn is a firecracker with a great imagination.  She likes to hang from a tree and pretend she's an apple, but she is also mysterious, so she pretends to be a poison apple.  Evelyn KNOWS fashion.  Lampshades are the new black and sweatbands are making a comeback.  And, Band-aids can be used to accessorize.  In one of the best descriptions EVER (I would love to be described this way...) the narrator says that, "If Evelyn was a book, you'd read her all night under the covers to see what happened next."  The narrator's mother says that Evelyn is a jumping bean.  The accompanying illustration shows Evelyn, horizontal and almost touching the ceiling, while the narrator sits below her on her bed shining a beam of light from her flashlight on he while her mother peeks in the room where the crocs should be sleeping.  Unlike  I'm the Best, the friendship is not portrayed as imbalanced and there is never really a sense that the narrator feels less than Evelyn.  Nevertheless, there is a turning point in the book when Evelyn admits that she stinks at spelling and the narrator tells us that she is good at it!  She is also good at baking cookies and karate, among other things.  By the end of the book, we realize that what Evelyn wants most in the world is exactly what the narrator is, a one-of-a-kind true blue best friend who will stick with her through thick and thin, and that is exactly what she has.






A big THANKS to Pink Me for NOT writing a review of  I'm Not AND for supplying some really great information about the creators of this book and links to their various sites and works! If you don't immediately run out to buy this book, which you really should because then you will also have the pleasure of seeing the narrator's pet worm who does some crazy stuff in the book,  I IMPLORE you to visit Call Me Bob, Weinstock's site, for wonderful example of his illustration, some very funny poems that could Jack Prelutsky a run for his considerable money and a section called "stuff" in which you will find lists of items under the headings, "Things That Make My Head Look Big" and "Smart Books I Can't Finish."  Also, it turns out that Ms Smallcomb is also a multi-talent who (besides being a mother of four, which is my opinion is a multi-talent in and of itself) has a very funny, very creative blog called YOBOROBO where she writes about crafting and GIVES AWAY her creations!!!!  And, of course, she has an Etsy Store that is worth taking a peek at.  Here are a few of her creations below.

Lucy, the catDenisePosey and her Bunny


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