I Am One: A Book of Action

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
I Am One: A Book of Action Book Poster Image
Inspiring book celebrates the power of one.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows how individual kids can make a difference in was bih=g and small. 

Positive Messages

You're just one person, but you can take one action to start a journey or a friendship, to connect with others, to care, to lead. One good action can inspire many more, and change can spread like ripples in water until it's movement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, a Black child with short locs, models how one person can make a difference through their actions as they tear down a wall, make a friend, show kindness, lead, and work with others to make something beautiful. No gender pronouns are used, and gender isn't obvious in illustrations either. Other kids sport blue and pink hair and represent many skin colors. One child wears an abaya and headscarf.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am One: A Book of Action, by author-illustrator team Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds, celebrates the power of action to inspire change. From the popular I Am Books collection (I Am Love), this story follows a compassionate kid discovering how "just one" act can start a garden, a song, a friendship, a ripple, and, even, a collective action. The main character is Black with short locs, and other characters represent various skin colors, lack starkly defined genders, and sport black, brown, red, pink and blue hair in a variety of styles. One character is shown in an abaya (a robe-like dress, worn by some women in parts of the Islamic world) and headscarf. This is a great choice for elementary-age kids, especially those interested in activism and social change.

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What's the story?

I AM ONE begins with a question: How do I make a difference as just one kid? The thoughtful main character then ponders what "one" can do: one stroke to start a masterpiece, one step to start a journey, one brick pried away to start tearing down a wall, one conversation can start a friendship, one action can start a movement. The child loads bricks, flowers, and a rainbow-leaved tree into their wagon, and takes their new friend on a journey across the ocean to new shores, where new friends await. Together, they make something beautiful, something that began with just one act. The story is followed by an author's note and an activism-inspiring guided meditation.

Is it any good?

This timely, compelling book gently encourages young readers to engage in small (or large) actions that inspire change. A loose storyline will help keep children engaged, and they'll root for the sweet kid who sets out to make their world more just, peaceful, and beautiful. The avoidance of gender in text and pictures is strikingly inclusive, and in line with the diverse cast of characters that populate the pages. Author Susan Verde's repetitious sentence structure, which breaks midway into something more flowing and fluid, has a lovely rhythm throughout. Readers will enjoy following the connections between Peter Reynold's lively, bold-colored illustrations. Fans of the series should look for the main characters of the other books who appear as supporting characters in this one.

Some grown-ups might raise an eyebrow at the use of social and political symbols (e.g. tearing down a wall, crossing borders, a tree the color of a rainbow), but I Am One  can be a useful tool to talk with young kids about current events and family values. A great read for all the little change-makers of tomorrow. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different actions shown in I Am One. What actions seemed small or big? Have you done any of the things in this book? What kind of change did it make in your world?

  • The main character breaks through a brick wall. Is the wall just a wall, or does it stand in for something about real life? What else could the wall mean?

  • Look through the illustrations. What do you notice about the colors? The kids? The setting or place? How do the pictures tell parts of the story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love tales of activism and books that promote self-esteem

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