A Girl Like Me

h1 January 9th, 2020 by jules

“I swam on by the people onshore hollering,
‘A girl like you needs to be stay out of the water
and be dry, like everyone else.'”

(Click spread to enlarge)


A collaboration I like to see is this one — author Angela Johnson and illustrator Nina Crews. Their new book is called A Girl Like Me and is coming to shelves early next month (Millbrook Press).

This is a poem from Johnson, one she wrote years ago and one spread here across 32 pages, with Crews’s signature photocollage illustrations. It’s a poem about a girl’s dreams (though multiple girls are pictured) and … well, carrying on, despite people around them spewing a string of “shouldn’t”s: “I always dream I’m flying,” the book opens, “in Supergirl underwear way up high, with everybody saying, ‘A girl like you shouldn’t be flying up there in your underwear.'” There’s flying over a city; there’s walking over one (in a cowgirl hat, nonetheless); and there’s swimming deep in the ocean.

The book shifts midway — from the girl remembering what she used to dream to just yesterday, when she decides to do something about it. Yesterday, the girl notes, she got herself what she wanted — a cape, some hats, and some scarves — and with great agency made her way to the ocean. She struts. She thinks “way up high.” She even makes everything “better than the dream.”

Twelve girls are featured (and the book’s final spread includes their photos, favorite things, and wishes). In vibrant, patterned collage illustrations throughout the book, we see the girls flying, swimming, playing, and exploring. Little details charm — the scuffed elbow of one determined girl; the stubborn stride of another; what looks like marker on one girl’s hands; and their wide, open-hearted smiles, especially as they dance on the shore toward the book’s close.

You may have seen, back in August, this Q&A Betsy Bird did with both author and illustrator. It’s a good read, especially to read Johnson’s thoughts on the book’s inspiration, as well as to read how Crews makes her illustrations in the digital age.

Here are some more spreads from the book. …


“I’m flying in Supergirl underwear way up high …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“I used to dream I walked over tall buildings
in flowing scarves and a cowgirl hat.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


” … and walked past tall buildings”
(Click spread to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

A GIRL LIKE ME. Text copyright © 2004 by Angela Johnson. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Nina Crews and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Millbrook Press, Minneapolis.

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