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Richard Brehm
Author
YOU BE YOU

Children/Young Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Publish)

YOU BE YOU is the story of a young girl ("You" in fact) venturing on a journey of discovery to paint the great canvas of her life.

Reviews
Brehm’s children’s debut immerses readers in a stunning mélange of color and prose illustrating a girl’s journey of self-discovery. The second-person narration explains that, on the appointed day, “Old Master Paint awaits you” in “a whispery house at the edge of the wild.” The Master leads the girl to a room, where he leaves her alone in front of the huge, glowing “Great Canvas of Life,” which is “daunting” and “so very very…white.” She struggles to decide what to fill it with, fighting the master’s disapproval and her own uncertainty, until her breakthrough materializes—and she takes control to design a beautiful life.

A loose, inconsistent rhyme scheme may trip up some readers, but the story will captivate them. Readers will empathize with the girl’s self-doubt and mistakes (“In frustration and despair, you tear a hole in the canvas” that allows monsters in) and cheer for her when she realizes she can make her own choices about her life canvas. Rogério Coelho’s extraordinary illustrations spin a web of enchantment around Brehm’s story, bursting with vibrant color and movement and enhancing the sense of magic.

The book’s promotion of both acceptance and daring (“Why, this is your life you’re painting… Dream large, head high!/Nothing can hold you back.”) will resonate with children and adults. Readers of all ages will be swept away in this bewitching allegory about building a meaningful life.

Takeaway: Readers of any age will be enchanted by this kaleidoscopic journey of self-exploration and discovery.

Great for fans of: Eileen Spinelli’s Someday, Nancy Tillman’s The Crown on Your Head.

Production grades
Cover: A+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A+
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Kirkus Reviews

Faced with a blank canvas, a young girl finds her creative spirit in Brehm’s unusual picture book.

Emerging from a dark forest, a sickle moon overhead, a young girl enters “a whispery house / At the edge of the wild,” where mysterious “Old Master Paint” awaits her in a cape of luminous, swirling colors. Too tongue-tied and uncertain to say her name, the girl is given a bucket and a brush and led down strange hallways and upstairs to a room dominated by an enormous, white canvas—hers to paint, she is told. After a tentative, disappointing first effort, the little girl’s anger and self-doubt—in the form of trolls, wolves, and her alter ego—threaten to get the better of her until she realizes that she is in control. It is her own life the girl is painting, and she can choose to “Dream large! Grab on! / You’re just getting started, / Such adventures to come!” The offbeat cadence of inspirational, rhyming, and almost-rhyming text winds through dreamlike images by award-winning Brazilian author/illustrator Coelho. Shadowed rooms (odd angles and haunting details), rich abstractions of patterns and color, and showers of light reflect the little girl’s initial hesitation to claim her place in the world and her subsequent, celebratory sense of self-discovery.

An uplifting, eye-filling adventure encouraging children to realize their innate creativity and individuality.

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