Philip Bunting, Who Am I?, Scholastic Australia, September 2020, 32 pp., RRP $17.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781743835043
There was excitement at our house when this book arrived.
‘Look! Look at the pictures! It’s by that guy who wrote the funny book about evolution and stuff!’
‘That guy’ is Philip Bunting — author and illustrator of fiction books (including Mopoke and Koalas Eat Gum Leaves), and nonfiction including his ‘funny book about evolution and stuff’, How Did I Get Here?
Bunting’s books are instantly recognisable because of their delicious lolly-shop aesthetic. His illustrations are cartoonish and flippant — with bright colours, wide eyes, and tongue in cheek cheekiness — but his messages are smart and strong. In his nonfiction, Bunting explores life’s big questions in a way that is humorous and insightful. His writing is easy to understand but never condescending. He seems to strike a perfect balancing between learning and laughing. I don’t know why bodily organs and primitive organisms with eyes are so funny and appealing. They just are.
Who Am I? makes a great companion book to How Did I Get Here? I’ll admit that it mostly excites the teacher in me, because it feels like it was written as a fun way to kickstart the next stage of inquiring. Who Am I? cycles through a series of questions Am I my name? … Am I my gender?… Am I my thoughts?… How about my guts and stuff? Bunting offers answers, but in a way that lends itself to further questions about identity, ethics, social and emotional learning, biology, history, environment, and culture. There are so many leads to follow.
But this book is much more than an educational resource. It is so joyful and visually appealing that it deserves to be on display for curious kids and adults to pick up in all sorts of settings. You should buy a copy for home and sit it wherever your family’s best thinking takes place — on the coffee table, or by the toilet.
Who Am I? celebrates both shared humanity and individuality with warmth and whimsy. It has plenty for thinkers of all ages to sit and ponder. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Liz Patterson