I saw this book at a local indie bookstore and immediately connected with the beautiful words and images. What’s Special About Me Mama? written by Kristina Evans and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe is a tender story showcasing a mother’s love for her son. As the boy asks over and over what makes him special, his mama never runs short of affirming answers.
Here are some reviews:
“A child’s need to know that he or she is special is a common concern that has been addressed in various forms in picture books over the years. Here, Evans and Steptoe provide a warm and touching version, showcasing an African-American family. Evans’s dialogue swings with an easy back-and-forth rhythm between a mother and her son, and Steptoe’s collage illustrations, in deep rich colors, effectively position the characters, harmoniously connecting the two. In taking full advantage of the pages and spreads, the artist achieves an intimacy between the boy and his mother that melds well with the story. Hand-lettered text emphasizes the woman’s words to her son—”Amazing,” “Perfect,” “Beautiful” in large bright colors and her answers to “What else, Mama?” connect with the child’s everyday world. A heartfelt, comforting tale with the perfect ending: “Tell me AGAIN, Mama.”
— School Library Journal
“There are shelves of picture books framed as a reassuring question-and-answer game between a parent and a child, including such classics as Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny (1942). This offering adds several fresh spins on the familiar theme in a tender conversation between an African American mother and son, whose repeated question forms the book’s title. The mother has no shortage of comforting answers, from the boy’s eyes, which “tell amazing stories without any words,” to the way the boy’s laughter “fills the house with joy.” Still, the boy isn’t satisfied, until his mother folds him into an all-encompassing hug and reminds him that he is “loved more than anybody in the whole wide world–by me!” While kids of all backgrounds will connect with the story, this will be particularly welcomed by African American children, who may see themselves in the boy’s richly diverse family, shown in Steptoe’s textured-paper collages, which beautifully magnify the sense of sweet, snuggling intimacy between parent and child. Pair this with Charlotte Zolotow’s Do You Know What I’ll Do? (2000), also illustrated by Steptoe.”