What Will You Be?
A companion to Where Are You From? Yamile Saied Méndez returns in her newest picture book What Will You Be? to big questions little kids ask. This time the big question is embedded in an endearing relationship between a young girl and her abuela. Abuela, a painter, helps her granddaughter explore many colorful options, “Abuela hands me her paintbrush and, with wonder, I discover the way colors come alive on a blank canvas just for me.”
The story actually begins with peers asking the young girl, “What will you be when you grow up?” Setting a rather adult tone, they continue, “Your mom’s this. Your dad’s that. It’s never too soon to dream of what you will become.” She offers ideas like being an astronaut, a unicorn, a clown. They insist, “No, what will you really be?”
In this story of possibilities, Abuela encourages the main character to look within her heart and listen. Méndez lyrically describes what happens next, “I close my eyes, so I can hear the words no ear can catch. Inside me, underneath the rhythm of drumming, there’s a quiet voice.” And like her abuela the painter, “The answers come fast in a rush of colors and sounds.”
Digital illustrations by Kate Alizadeh are simple and adorable, depicting how the young girl begins a dreamy journey of wonder and curiosity. And on this journey of What Will You Be? the young girl considers a variety of options: a builder, a farmer, a dreamer, a writer who inspires others to tell their stories, “a warrior with my pen and brush.”
Channeling an inspirational voice quite mature for her years, the young girl seeks a path of “Planting wonder and change, . . . harvesting the power and knowledge that sprouted for those who dreamed before me.” Alternatively, she contemplates becoming a healer of broken bones —and even hearts, “a voice against injustice and hurt; and mender of wrongs.” Or a student, “looking inside myself and other people to understand what makes each of us one of a kind, all magical and different, all needed and appreciated.” Or a leader, “remembering that laughter is a universal language, understood by young and old.”
Like many similarly themed and penned books, What Will You Be? has a sweet, predictable ending, “When I grow up . . . I will be me.” That said, there’s always room for more books that encourage young children to dream and dream big, only to discover what’s most important is finding their unique selves.