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