Reviews for What's Special About Me, Mama?

Booklist Reviews 2011 February #1
There are shelves of picture books framed as a reassuring question-and-answer game between a parent and a child, including such classics as Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny (1942). This offering adds several fresh spins on the familiar theme in a tender conversation between an African American mother and son, whose repeated question forms the book's title. The mother has no shortage of comforting answers, from the boy's eyes, which "tell amazing stories without any words," to the way the boy's laughter "fills the house with joy." Still, the boy isn't satisfied, until his mother folds him into an all-encompassing hug and reminds him that he is "loved more than anybody in the whole wide world--by me!" While kids of all backgrounds will connect with the story, this will be particularly welcomed by African American children, who may see themselves in the boy's richly diverse family, shown in Steptoe's textured-paper collages, which beautifully magnify the sense of sweet, snuggling intimacy between parent and child. Pair this with Charlotte Zolotow's Do You Know What I'll Do? (2000), also illustrated by Steptoe. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
When a child asks his mother what about him is special, she provides a list of his physical traits and character qualities (e.g., "the way you share"). The sweetness of the mother's answers is often calibrated by the boy's honesty ("but sometimes I feel like keeping all my toys to myself"). Textured collage illustrations with varying perspectives broaden the book's appeal. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 December #2

A small boy asks his mother for reassurances that he is special. But the things she cites speak to him more of connections than uniqueness. His beautiful eyes are like his mother's, his skin color like his father's. Mama lists his helpful hands, his laughter, his kind heart and his hugs and kisses, but he sees these as small and imperfect. It is his mother's huge, limitless love for him that makes him special. Evans employs a warm conversational tone and syntax that not only applies to the child in the tale but speaks universally to young readers, who will recognize their own special qualities. The large, naive-looking type appears around and through the pictorial matter, with key words like "amazing" and "beautiful" popping out larger, bolder and brightly colored. Steptoe's unique textured, mixed-media illustrations are large-scale depictions of loving gestures and body and facial expressions. Like Mama Do You Love Me and Guess How Much I Love You but with an entirely fresh look; little ones will want to hear this sweet tale again and again. (Picture book. 2-6)


Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 November #1

Steptoe's (Amiri and Odette) collages show a quizzical boy with a face full of freckles and a family that cherishes him. First pictured tiptoeing toward, then peeking over the arm of her chair, the boy asks Mama the title question, persisting when the answers don't satisfy him. She cites his physical charms ("Your freckles, Love, and the way the sun kissed your nose and cheeks with just the perfect amount"), but this fails to soothe his doubts ("But Auntie Jade has freckles, too.... What's special about me?"). She praises his personality ("Your laugh, Love"), but this doesn't placate him, either. At last, she convinces him by telling him, "What's special about you, Love, is that you are loved more than anybody in the whole wide world--by me!" Evans (Cherish Today) gives a believable account of a child who needs extra reassurance and a mother who adores him as he is. Steptoe's many pictures of the boy nestled in his parents' arms reinforce the image of a family whose affection is generously given. Ages 3-6. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 January

PreS-K--A child's need to know that he or she is special is a common concern that has been addressed in various forms in picture books over the years. Here, Evans and Steptoe provide a warm and touching version, showcasing an African-American family. Evans's dialogue swings with an easy back-and-forth rhythm between a mother and her son, and Steptoe's collage illustrations, in deep rich colors, effectively position the characters, harmoniously connecting the two. In taking full advantage of the pages and spreads, the artist achieves an intimacy between the boy and his mother that melds well with the story. Hand-lettered text emphasizes the woman's words to her son--"Amazing," "Perfect," "Beautiful" in large bright colors and her answers to "What else, Mama?" connect with the child's everyday world. A heartfelt, comforting tale with the perfect ending: "Tell me AGAIN, Mama."--Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA

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