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The Picture Book Buzz

I Am Today - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Due to the craziness of 2021, this amazing book got bumped from its newest release date of December 21st to January 23, 2022. So, now I get the privilege of offering you a special sneak peek at a stunning collaboration between the rhyming text of Matt Forrest Esenwine and the powerful illustrative narrative of Patricia Pessoa. It is a gorgeous book of a child determined to make a difference now, instead of waiting to be the hope of the future.

I Am Today

Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrator: Patricia Pessoa

Publisher: POW! Kids Books (2022)

Ages: 4-8



Child activism, empowerment, taking a stand, and rhyming.


While playing on the beach in her coastal town, a young girl comes across a sea turtle ensnared by a wire. Her town is home to a factory that has provided jobs for many of her neighbors, including her mother, but it has also been dumping garbage from a pipe into the waters, threatening the creatures that live in them.

Children are used to being asked what they’ll do and be when they grow up, but the girl knows there is so much she can do today to help. Unable to forget the sight of the struggling turtle, with a fantastic act she inspires the townspeople to compel the factory to change its destructive ways.

Written in spare and evocative poetry, I Am Today is an empowering story for children who want to be the change the world needs.

Opening Lines:

Grown-ups say I am the Future.

But I’d rather be the Now.

Why wait to make a change for good?

I’m strong.

And I know how!

What I LOVED about this book:

I'm going to start with a craft note - as Matt noted in our interview on Monday, he wrote a touching, empowering, succinct poem. A rhyming text about not waiting for the future to arrive when "There's never been a better time to listen...learn...respond." Especially when one has "so much to say." It's a thought-provoking lyrical text. But he didn't create the story. The narrative arc exists in Patricia Pessoa's gorgeous illustrations. The story of a young girl seeing something wrong and taking a stand against a local business to make them change their actions and correct the situation is told exclusively through the illustrations. I am in awe of Matt's restraint is leaving the story to the illustrator and of Patricia's ability to leave room and yet include so much for the reader to "find" (decipher) the story.

After a girl and her dog find debris (springs, screws, and wires) scattered on the beach and a turtle trapped by a wire, she declares "I'd rather be the Now." And sets the turtle free. Note the factory in the background and the open pipe on her right spilling out detritus.

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Patricia Pessoa, 2021.

Her bucket of collected debris, matches pieces of a gizmo advertised throughout town and then seen sitting on a table at her house. Both created by the plant where her mother works. I love how Patricia uses the plant or it's image throughout to help tell the story. For instance, we learn the mother works there when she arrives home for dinner in a uniform with the factory image on the back.

As the girls prepares for bed and drifts off to a spectacular dream, she continues to think about the turtle and the danger the plant poses to all ocean life. She decides she's "needed in the Here and Now - and not so far away." So she writes letters and folds them into origami turtles. The next double spread is amazingly imaginative as she releases her letters - turtles - into the night...

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Patricia Pessoa, 2021.

Patricia does an amazing job using a variety of spreads (including spot and wordless) to carry us along on this budding environmental activists' journey and fight. I particularly love Patricia uses reflections in the puddles to help tell the story and entice us along - just like she does on the cover.

Text © Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Image © Patricia Pessoa, 2021.

Were the girl and her dog successful? You'll have to check out the book. Be sure to notice what the girl has in her bucket at the end.

Matt and Patricia have collaborated to create an amazing book showing kids that they can make a difference; that their voices deserve to be heard - Now. They may be the future, but they see the cracks (fissures) in the facade now and should feel empowered to speak out and make things better. It's a great mentor text on creating excellent rhyming and leaving room for the narrative to be created and told through the illustrations. It's a fun, imaginative, and poignant book.


- follow the directions at the back of the book and make your own origami turtle(s).

[Image © Patricia Pessoa, 2021.]

- is there something in your community or school that you'd like to change? What could you do to be heard?

- what other human-made dangers do turtles or other sea creatures face? What can you do (beach clean ups, reduce your use of plastic, write to legislators or media, contribute to rescue organizations, etc.) to help save the oceans?

- read Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So for a true story of kids helping sea turtle.

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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