In this post, we feature two multi-award-winning creators: author Lesléa Newman, whose previous titles include the Stonewall Award Honor Book October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, and illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez, whose previous titles include My Colors, My World / Mis colores, mi mundo, for which they received a Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor. You can hear them speak about their new picture book, I Can Be… Me!, and try their “invitation to imagine” activities. You’ll also find other resources to explore. Thanks for joining us, and let us know what you think in the comments below!
I Can Be… Me!
- Written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
- Published by Lee & Low
- Release date: March 21, 2023
In this lighthearted story, a group of six, colorfully clad children exuberantly explore—through play—the many ways they can be themselves. They are free to embrace all kinds of activities, reveling in the fun of trying new things and discovering new ways of being. They can shoot baskets, dance around a room, weave ribbons through their hair, swim like a mermaid, and more. There is no right way or wrong way. There are no binary expectations. Children explore their individuality through whatever kinds of play appeal to them. With lively, gender-neutral rhyming verses and fun, gender-bending images, author Lesléa Newman and illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez invite young readers into a space where creativity and acceptance are enjoyed by all, and where each child will be inspired to say, “I can be… me!”
Explore I Can Be…Me!
Listen to Lesléa Newman and Maya Christina Gonzalez talking with TeachingBooks about creating I Can Be…Me!. You can click the player below or experience the recording on TeachingBooks, where you can read along as you listen, and also translate the text to another language.
- Listen to author Lesléa Newman pronounce her name.
- Listen to illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez pronounce their name.
- Explore TeachingBooks’ collection of activities and resources for I Can Be…Me!
Invitation to Imagine
TeachingBooks asks each author or illustrator on our Virtual Book Tour to share a writing prompt, a drawing exercise, or just an interesting question to spark curiosity and creativity. Enjoy the following activities contributed by Lesléa Newman and Maya Christina Gonzalez.
Imagination Activity with Lesléa Newman
Here is my favorite writing exercise, which is modeled after Joe Brainard’s book, I Remember. Write the two words “I remember” down and finish that sentence. Then write “I remember” again, and write another sentence. Keep going! We are all a treasure trove of memories, and getting them down on paper means you will always have them with you. Pick any one that appeals to you, and write a whole page (or more!) about it. You can adapt this exercise by adding words such as “I remember my grandmother…” or “I remember throwing…” The possibilities are endless!
Imagination Activity with Maya Christina Gonzalez
Print out the “Draw Yourself” handout, which you can find on Reflectionpress.com/truth.
This super simple handout shows how to use the same drawing style that I use in some of my books to draw people. Take a moment to draw yourself with all your fabulousness. What do you love most about yourself? What is an important part of who you are that no one can see just by looking at you? Do any of the kids in I Can Be…Me! feel like you or a part of you?
When you’re done, take a moment to look at your drawing and tell the story that you see there. You could even write it down!
Finish This Sentence . . . with Lesléa Newman and Maya Christina Gonzalez
As part of our Virtual Book Tour, TeachingBooks asks authors and illustrators to complete short sentence prompts. Enjoy Lesléa Newman and Maya Christina Gonzalez’s responses.
“A surprising thing that helps me work is…”
A surprising thing that helps me work is my cat! She gets very restless in the morning and waits until I sit down on my writing couch. She curls up beside me and falls asleep purring. The sound of her purr helps me write!—Lesléa Newman
“Something you may not know about this book…”
Something you may not know about this book is that both my kid and my dog are characters in it. I often blend bits of my real life with the imagery I create, especially by including my own kid. This makes my books feel real because they are. Our dog, Ms. Vanjie, is part Chihuahua and we think Jack Russel, because they have a cute little beard everybody loves. They’re named after an awesome drag queen, and they love to wear their fur collar. —Maya Christina Gonzalez
To wrap up this Virtual Book Tour, we thank Lesléa Newman and Maya Christina Gonzalez for signing a book for all of us.
More Connections to Lesléa Newman, Maya Christina Gonzalez, and I Can Be…Me!
- Discover books like I Can Be…Me! on TeachingBooks.
- Lee & Low’s page about I Can Be…Me!, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez.
- Buy I Can Be…Me!, written by Lesléa Newmanand illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez.
Explore all of the titles featured in the TeachingBooks Virtual Book Tour: one link with author interviews, lesson plans, activities, and more!
All text and images are courtesy of Lesléa Newman, Maya Christina Gonzalez, and Lee & Low and may not be used without expressed written consent.
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