#1211 – Always Be You by Ioana Stoian & Dawn M. Cardona

Always Be You
Written by Ioana Stoian
Illustrated by Dawn M. Cardona
Busy Hands Books 11/5/2019
18 Pages   Ages 0—5


Genre:  Children’s Board Book, Fiction
Themes: Acceptance, Emotions, Diversity



A new board book that celebrates each and every child for who they are. (from publisher)

Opening Lines

I want you to be red
I want you to be blue
I want you to be
Any colour will do

Why I like this book

Always Be You, written in simple rhyme, reads like a love letter from parent to child. It is also a blueprint for life. The first verse speaks of the child being any color he/she chooses. This can refer to diversity in general or it could specifically refer to LBGT. In any case, whatever the child decides to be is okay.

Stoian continues the theme of acceptance with emotions, telling the child “I want you to feel” anything is fine. Letting the child know emotions are neither good nor bad; emotions just are, whatever you feel is okay. Keeping the concepts simple makes Always Be You easy for a young child to understand. The text focuses on the “you” landing it squarely on the child. As the parent reads, all the adulation comes from parent to child. What a great way to bond.

The variously colored, gender-neutral character of the sun makes Always Be You perfect for both boys and girls. The illustrations are gorgeous in lovely shades of violet, pink, yellow, and green. I like the “Any colour will do” sun and how it becomes a flower representing “you,” with its diversity of color—its multiculturalism—in in the outward streaks of that sun. Without its stem, the flower looks like an emotional child.

The illustrations are the highlight of this board book, but without the original rhyming text, the images would not make sense. Pictures and rhymes successfully work together, delivering a strong board book about acceptance and being yourself—a nice message to learn early and reinforce often.

But . . . Stoian wants the child to know right and wrong, but then hooks this into the idea of thoughts and that all “thoughts belong.”* The words “wrong” and “belong” rhyme, but for the sake of rhyme, two different ideas become mashed into one and it simply does not work.

I want you to know right
I want you to know wrong
I want you to know
All your thoughts belong”

In each verse, lines 3 and 4 read like a sentence (sans punctuation) except in the first verse, “I want you to be/Any colour will do.” The word “do” does rhyme with “blue” and her meaning is clear (be who you want to be), but this could have been expressed differently than a jolting “Any colour will do.” The sentence sounds clunky.

Illustrations:  Artist Dawn M. Cardona made the illustrations by hand-cutting paper made by the author, Ioana Stoian. That’s right, hand-made paper from the hands of the author, was hand-cut by the hands of the artist. Could a truer collaboration ever be found? I cannot wait to read more books from these two creators.

Available at Amazon

Always Be You. Text Copyright © 2019 by Ioana Stoian. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Dawn M. Cardona. Published by Busy Hands Books, Minneapolis, USA.

 *This idea makes the therapist in me go on a rant about negative versus positive thoughts and how thoughts can lead to behavior (good and bad); by changing our thoughts we can change our actions and if we do this enough, we can change who we are (hopefully for the better). “Okay, end of rant. Go back to what you were reading.”

Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved


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