Week-end Book Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me? by Manjula Padmanabhan


Manjula Padmanabhan
I Am Different! Can You Find Me?
The Global Fund for Children/Charlesbridge Publishing, 2011.

Ages 4-8

In this exuberant celebration of differences, Indian cartoonist, novelist and playwright Manjula Padmanabhan makes being unique a source of delight and excitement, rather than something to fear or avoid. Each colorful spread displays an array of a single object, all apparently exactly the same. But wait – one actually is different. Which one?  Readers will love the interactive fun of these sixteen puzzles in which they must identify the one ladder, iguana, car, flower, or other object that is not like the others.  (Where are the wheels on that car?  Is that girl asleep?)

As Padmanabhan writes, “In the United States, eight out of every ten people speak only English.” But in fact, both the country and the continent have always been a place of immigrants, and I Am Different encourages readers to remember those roots. Each spread repeats the question, “Can you find me?” in one of sixteen different languages now spoken in North America. Along with phonetic pronunciation, Padmanabhan offers a brief paragraph about each language, including fun facts like “Cheetah, pajamas, and shampoo are words you might know that come from Hindi,” or instructions on how to count to five in Cree, the most widely spoken indigenous language in Canada. By repeating the same phrase, “Can you find me?”, in a variety of languages, Padmanabhan brilliantly recognizes both the delights of being different as well as the commonalities we all share.

Padmanabhan has illustrated twenty-one children’s books, and is well known for her cartoon strip, Suki, which ran first in Bombay’s Sunday Observer and later the Pioneer in Delhi. In I am Different, bright, kindergarten-friendly colors and cartoon-like illustrations make an engaging game of hide-and-seek that will provoke young pre-readers (and indeed, the adults next to them) to think deeply about and rejoice in our differences. While some individual spreads may challenge the youngest readers, the book remains a valuable teaching tool for colors, shapes and counting, a wonderful bonding book for parents and children or brothers and sisters, and most of all a joyful embrace of discovering and celebrating things that make us unique.

Sara Hudson
October 2011

3 Responses to “Week-end Book Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me? by Manjula Padmanabhan”

  1. Cynthia Pon Says:

    Thank you, Sara and Papertigers, for this wonderful review! We hope to share the joy of discovery with children about the rich crossings of our cultures. Wherever the children are, they can probably recognize some of the languages in this book, and learn about new ones!

    Cynthia Pon
    Director of Global Fund for Children Books

  2. Manjula Padmanabhan Says:

    Hello and thank Sara Hudson and Papertigers, for that extremely appreciative review. I’d like to offer credit where it’s due, however — the text on the pages relating to the different languages was written by the editors at Charlesbridge Publishing. The concept, pictures and puzzles are mine, including the idea of presenting the repeated phrase, CAN YOU FIND ME? in different languages. Working on the original edition of this book, published in India by TULIKA, made me aware of how difficult it is to translate even a simple four-word question with accuracy and sensitivity! This edition completes that process with wonderful clarity. Thank you again for your warm attention.

  3. Marjorie Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia and Manjula, for your responses to Sara’s review. There is certainly a lot of credit due all round for this wonderful book. And I agree with you, Manjula, about the potential pitfalls in translating even supposedly simple phrases – in fact, it’s probably the simple, commonplace words that have the most cultural overlayering requiring as much consideration as the words themselves…