A joyful picture book celebration of individuality, uniqueness, and children’s freedom

by Michael Strickland

Nearly half of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to a 2022 survey from the Trevor Project. That’s just one reason why books like I Can Be…Me! need to be amplified as much as possible. And draconian attacks on libraries and librarians are slowly pushing such critical dialogues out of reach for some young people.

Books can be a safe space. They enlighten, validate and produce joy. All children need books like this one. So do all adults.

“I think one of the big things … when I got the the beautiful words from Lesléa and I started looking at them is it felt really in alignment with a lot of the other work that I do … and all of that really is sourced I think from being part of the community having a trans partner having a non-binary kid who’s nine … so going through all of that stuff right now and really trying to attend to what would be the most healing then most supportive … the most reflective the most playful, the most expansive … really taking the opportunity to break down as many expectations and assumptions around what boys and girls are supposed to be.” — Illustrator Maya Gonzalez, on her inspiration to work on I Can Be… Me!

Check out this joyful picture book celebration of individuality, uniqueness, and children’s freedom to express themselves while engaging in whatever kinds of play they choose.

I can be everything I want to be,
I can be all of magnificent me!

In this lighthearted story, a group of six, colorfully clad children exuberantly explore — through play — the many ways they can be themselves. They are free to embrace all kinds of activities, reveling in the fun of trying new things and discovering new ways of being. They can shoot baskets, dance around a room, weave ribbons through their hair, swim like a mermaid, and more. There is no right way or wrong way. There are no binary expectations. Children explore their individuality through whatever kinds of play appeal to them.

With lively, gender-neutral rhyming verses and fun, gender-bending images, author Lesléa Newman and illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez invite young readers into a space where creativity and acceptance are enjoyed by all, and where each child will be inspired to say, “I can be… me!”

View the Teacher’s Guide

WATCH: In Conversation with Lesléa Newman & Maya Gonzalez

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