I Promise

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
I Promise Book Poster Image
Inspiring pledges encourage kids to try hard, aim high.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shows rhythms of a school day. Suggests personal goals that can lead to successful outcomes. Models positive interactions with classmates, teacher, crossing guard, and with kids on playground, on the court, in the pool. One of the last pages offers 11 promises kids might make, including "to go to school, to do all my homework, to always try my best, to make good choices for myself, to have fun."

Positive Messages

Every two-page spread includes positive messages within the promises, such as: "I promise to be open and try new things / and enjoy the happy that change can bring." Other messages include: stand up for what's right; when things get tough, keep up the fight; ask for help whenever you need it; use kindness when you speak; read as much as you can; respect your elders; never give up; strive for greatness. Positive messages at back of book in note from LeBron James: "Setting goals, working hard and holding yourself accountable are the first steps to success." He also says, "Remember: Nothing is given. Everything is earned." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Many races, skin colors, and hair types represented in the happy cast of kids. The female crossing guard wears a head scarf. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that basketball great LeBron James' I Promise, illustrated by Nina Mata, is an exuberant picture book that shows diverse kids at school, committed to doing their best and having a good time together. Many of the rhyming positive statements on each page reflect a sports-minded perspective. The book starts with, "I promise to go to school / and read as much as I can, / to follow the rules / and respect the game plan." It ends with a promise "to be me," making it also a book that celebrates each kid's uniqueness and advocates being true to yourself. The audiobook version is read by LeBron's mother, Gloria James.

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What's the story?

I PROMISE doesn't tell a story, though it shows kids going through typical situations during an elementary school day and going to and from school. Each two-page spread declares a promise and shows a group of cheerful, diverse kids embodying it. The scenes show kids interacting well with classmates, a teacher, and a crossing guard, and in the classroom, on the playground, on the court, and in the pool. The idea of students making promises reflects a practice at the I Promise School that author LeBron James started in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, in 2018, in partnership with Akron Public Schools and LeBron James Family Foundation to help lower-income kids and their families succeed in school and beyond. As he explains in a note at the back of the book, "At the start of every school year, and repeated each morning, all students make a set of promises to themselves just like the ones in this book. Setting goals, working hard, and holding yourself accountable are the first steps to success." 

Is it any good?

This enthusiastic list of promises encourages kids to strive to do well in school, play nicely, aim high, and be kind. The diverse kids on each spread of I Promise look like they're having a great time, trying their hardest, being respectful, responsible, inclusive, and curious. It's easy to get swept up in their positive energy, and Nina Matta's engaging, emotive illustrations help make the kids appealing and relatable. The many promises drive home the point that if you can commit to a goal, it can lead to success in school, sports, relationships, and life.

Some of LeBron James' rhymes are more approximate than precise, such as this one: "I promise to ask questions and find answers / to believe in next time and second chances." But that's a small quibble in the overall fun, kid-friendly reading experience. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the pledges kids make in I Promise. Do they sound like things you could do? What promises could you make for the school year or for each day?

  • Are you more willing to listen to LeBron James' ideas about how to be successful because he's a successful athlete? What other athletes and celebrities do you look up to and would you take advice from? 

  • The book ends with a kid saying, "I promise to be me." What do you think that means? Why would that be an important promise to make? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love picture books and self-esteem tales

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