Books Books by Region Early Readers Features International It's Monday What Are You Reading Memoirs, Biographies, and Constructed Narratives Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Launch of April – June Reading Theme (Memoirs and Biographies) and Picturebooks about “I”dentity and Philosophical “I”deations

Picturebooks about "I"dentity and Philosophical "I"deations


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. 

We are also announcing the three Literary Voyagers who happen to be the lucky recipients of the following titles for the #LitWorld2018GB (Literary Voyage Around The World Reading Challenge):


  1. January Literary Voyager: BillyPar for his review of The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russia) – Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.
  2. February Literary Voyager: Nell for the review of Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women (Japan) – Black and Blue by Ian Rankin.
  3. March Literary Voyager: Santhi (Bookish Me) for her review of Tahmineh’s Beautiful Bird by Parviz Kalantari (Iran) – Running On The Roof Of The World by Jess Butterworth.

Please email gatheringbooks (at) yahoo (dot) com for your postal mail addresses and contact numbers so that Pansing would be able to send your book over to you. It is never too late to join – here are the details. Do sign up!

The first quarter of the year is officially over – my, that was fast. As such, we are launching our new reading theme until end of June this year: Memoirs, Biographies, Self-Constructed Narratives. Essentially, we are hunting down titles that will fit the following criteria:

  • picture book biographies
  • biographies or autobiographies (from middle grade to adult novels)
  • memoirs or graphic novel memoirs
  • first-person narratives (anything that is told from an “I” point of view) OR make-believe memoirs
  • stories about storytellers
  • narratives revolving around specific people, highlighting specific characters
  • impressions/biographies of a place

To launch our reading theme, I have four picturebooks here that begin with “I” – two of these titles we have reviewed here previously – but resurrecting it now for this post.

I Am Thomas

Written by: Libby Gleeson Illustrated by: Armin Greder
Published by: Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN: 174237333X (ISBN13: 9781742373331)Book was borrowed from the Library. Book photos taken by me.

Armin Greder is a genius. Paired up with the amazingly brilliant Libby Gleeson, this book is both disturbing and inspiring, disconcerting and empowering. There are no gods in this book, no magic red pens, no magic brushes touched by the deities, no brilliantly-coloured flying carpets. Nothing but a quiet certainty and proclamation:

I am Thomas.

I am not the child I once was.


What you see in this book are ogres of the most common form, witches of the worst kind: angry schoolteachers, snickering classmates, dismayed parents with the usual disappointed tears in their eyes, and relentless echoes of

do as we say

think like us

be like us

burning into one’s consciousness, penetrating one’s flesh, piercing one’s being.


There is a distinct sense of entrapment, a confining need to conform to societal expectations, and a socialized/institutionalized attempt to suppress one’s spirit, one’s sense of joy, one’s sense of self.


This is a powerful and intense book that helps one to find their voice amidst the reverberations of “should-be’s” and “must-do’s” and “have-to’s.” It is a book that quietly and firmly says despite (and perhaps even because of) this white noise:

I am Thomas.

For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, this is a downloadable pdf link created by Dr. Robin Sheahan-Bright for Allen & Unwin Book Publishers. It has nine pages of Teachers’ Notes depicting the significant themes that can be unpacked from the book and several suggested activities and discussion points that can be used in the classroom.

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter To His Daughter

Written by: Mark Gonzales Illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini
Published by: Simon Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2017
ISBN: 1481489364 (ISBN13: 9781481489362)Book was borrowed from the NIE Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have always been a fan of Mehrdokht Amini’s art ever since Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book Of Colors (written by Hena Khan – see my review here). This book solidified my admiration even further:

The author, Mark Gonzales, is said to have been inspired by his own daughter to write his first foray into children’s literature. There is a dream-like quality to the text that is both inviting and also instructive.

It touches eloquently on what it means to be constantly questioned about where one is from, one’s identity, or family lineage. Often, I wonder about the question: Where are you from? Born and raised in the Philippines, but having lived here in Singapore now for the past ten years, I find myself elaborating on ‘where I am from’ when asked this question whenever I am overseas.

While this book shows the lovely things that the world has in store for a young child, the father also prepares his daughter for things that are less than positive:

I admire narratives that provide realistic representations of what people experience, but do so in a way that remains gracious and hopeful – strong and proud, regardless of how other people may have demonized one’s religion, one’s ethnicity, one’s identity.

This is the kind of story, that I believe, we need most at the moment. Stories that transcend pain and hatred without necessarily pretending that they don’t exist or denying their reality. Rather, this is a story that trusts in the capacity of the young reader to go beyond such small-mindedness and the prejudices that people are bound to have and declare with conviction, with courage, and with faith: Yo Soy Muslim. 

Life And I: A Story About Death

Written byElisabeth Helland Larsen Illustrated by: Marine Schneider
Published byLittle Gestalten, 2016  ISBN: 3899557719 (ISBN13: 9783899557718)
Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

In this picturebook, Death is given a blue-green, Miyazake-like physique that is most likely meant to be reassuring to young children – unlike the skull, crossbones, skeleton figure with the scythe that most people are accustomed to.


There is a gentle, soothing tone to the narrative that demonstrates how Death is essentially a part of nature and is basically inevitable, regardless of how doors may be closed firmly shut to its coming.


Life and I 
can be found in everything
that starts or stops.
Life and I
stand together
behind all doors
that are opened.


It is a lyrical, comforting story that shows how life and death both reside in the individual. While I found the ending to be a bit superfluous and would have much rather ended with the duality note, this book remains very moving regardless.

I Am Life

Written by: Elisabeth Helland Larsen Illustrated by: Marine Schneider
Published by: Little Gestalten, 2017
ISBN: 389955793X (ISBN13: 9783899557930)Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.

While the reader gets to know Death in the first book, this one allows the reader to listen to Life’s voice:

This is a book that invites the reader to see life practically everywhere – there are small episodes depicted in the pages that convey some of the most beautiful things that make any person look forward to living, valuing life and all its transient beauty:

It also shows the connectedness of every creature that has a pulse, that cries, that hurts, that is capable of reaching out in comfort and compassion:

As I was reading this story, I wondered about what is it about the book that moved me so powerfully, apart from the lyrical text and the gorgeous art. Then I realize, it is in the hopeful note despite the devastation that surrounds us; it is in the raindrops hitting the earth, signifying growth and transformation.

At the end of it all, we are always in the process of becoming. How beautiful is that.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Marine Schneider is from Belgium, Elisabeth Helland Larsen is from Norway, Mehrdokht Amini is a UK-based Illustrator, Mark Gonzales is from California, Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder are from Australia

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

9 comments on “[Monday Reading] Launch of April – June Reading Theme (Memoirs and Biographies) and Picturebooks about “I”dentity and Philosophical “I”deations

  1. Interesting theme. Yo Soy Muslim sounds like an amazing book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    Probably discovering it from you, Myra, I have had I Am Thomas for a long time, used it often with my middle schoolers to spark their own writing about self. I love Yo Soy Muslim, a special and needed book! And the final two, new to me, will look for them! Thanks! I just finished Dear Martin by Nic Stone, one perhaps for your new theme!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These look good! I am most drawn by Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter To His Daughter. I love the illustrations and the content appears to be very important. I would like to get my hands on this one ASAP. Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful reading week!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I Am Thomas looks pretty intense
    I’ve been meaning to read Yo Soy Muslim, and your comments have persuaded me to put it on hold. I too loved Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post is stunning as always. Thank you for sharing these books with us. I am really intrigued by I Am Thomas!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. These look lovely and I think your new theme is powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed Yo Soy Muslim. The art was amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an interesting collection of titles this week. They’re all new to me, so I definitely need to get busy and find them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. crbrunelle

    I too really enjoyed Yo Soy Muslim. It’s gorgeous. I have just requested I am Life and Life and I from my library. They are intriguing to me. Thank you for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

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