Karamo Brown and Jason “Rachel” Brown (text) and Anoosha Syed (illustration), I Am Perfectly Designed, St Martin’s Press, December 2019, 40 pp., RRP $31.75 (hbk), ISBN 9781250232212
There are plenty of picture books being published at the moment that spruik self-love and acceptance. Some of them are pretty brash, so I Am Perfectly Designed is quite a pleasant surprise.
I was wary at first. The media release accompanying the book made much of the fact that one of the authors is a reality TV star. I have no idea who he is so was a little cynical… but once I cracked the cover, I forgot the marketing hype and was drawn into a charming snapshot of a small boy and his dad.
According to the title, the blurb and the afterword this is a book about loving who you are. But I think it’s more than that. I would argue that the relationship between the boy and his dad takes centre stage. As they walk through the city, the boy recounts shared memories, talks about special things they do together, and tries out ideas about the future. Dad…when I grow up and leave home — will you miss me? His chatter is punctuated by the dad’s steady assurances that he does remember, does love him, thinks he is special, and will always treasure him.
More than just a book about self-love, this is a book about familial love that endures through growth and changes. It is poignant without being saccharine. The illustrations are cute and whimsical at the same time. The wide-eyed cartoonish characters bring a sense of fun, whilst the very on-trend muted pastel ‘filterish’ colours give it an air of nostalgia. It is a cheery celebration of family and racial diversity.
If I have one criticism, it’s that I struggled a bit with the text formatting. The boy’s and dad’s voices are written in normal and bold font respectively, but because the text also change colours and shades, and the order of speakers isn’t consistent, it was a bit confusing trying to read it aloud the first time. Once you know the book it’s not an issue — just a hiccup that makes it a bit tricky to share without reading it first.
On the whole, I Am Perfectly Designed is an enjoyable and touching read. Recommended for lap snuggles or for educators looking for books that celebrate love in all its forms.
Reviewed by Liz Patterson