Herrera, Juan Felipe. Imagine. Lauren Castillo, Illustrator. Picture Book. Candlewick, 09/2018. pp. $16.99. 978-907636-9052-6. OUTSTANDING. GRADES K-4.
The autobiographical poem that Juan Felipe Herrera read aloud at his inauguration as the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2015 is now a picture book with illustrations by Castillo in pen-and-foam monoprint. With ochre and other earthtones, soft dark blues and greens, and the occasional pop of red, the pictures trace the growth of Herrera from a young child of migrant farmworkers in California to a white-haired man standing at the podium in the Library of Congress. Free verse, with the occasional Spanish word, explores different moments along his journey and is bound to strike a chord with many listeners: “If I opened/ my classroom’s wooden door/ not knowing how to read/ or/ speak in English, imagine.” Every line starts with “If I…” and ends with the word “imagine” except for the fourth and then the very last line, which end with the full phrase “imagine what you could do.” Although this repeated exhortation may not help children to imagine various futures for themselves, it could start them thinking, and the story will elicit wonder at Herrera’s achievement and sympathy for the experiences of migrant families and English language learners. This book has California-specific content.
Jennifer Vetter, Emerson School