Picture Book Review: I Am Famous

I Am Famous, Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie (authors), Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illus.), Albert Whitman & Company, 2018

Synopsis: Kiely knows she is famous! The paparazzi (her parents) follow her every move, documenting with cameras. It’s exhausting being famous, but someone has to do it! She even gets to perform a big song at her grandfather’s birthday. When she messes it up, she’s worried she’s lost her audience forever, but it turns out that no one is as loyal as her fans who love her.

I’m always a big fan of books which are constructed so that the text says one thing, while the illustrations demonstrate something different. I think this not only gives readers something to giggle at, when noticing the juxtaposition between the two elements, but it also means kids can learn a new literary technique, and have reasons to keep poring over a book again and again.

In I Am Famous, written by American sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, this is exactly what we get. Told from the viewpoint of a little girl, Kiely, who is a self-proclaimed celebrity, we see her navigate the highs and lows of stardom. There are the pluses, like: ‘I have my own chef, driver, and housekeeper’ (who is her mother, unsurprisingly); and then there are the downsides, like the stalking paparazzi who ‘bother me when I’m dining’ (her parents are ready with cameras to capture each moment).

The sassy main character has just the right amount of vivaciousness without being overbearing, and her commentary is hilarious. Just try not to laugh, for instance, at Kiely’s initial belief that, after falling during a performance, she will ‘never work in this town again.’ The voice is fresh, modern, and kid-friendly, and both parents and children will find a lot to enjoy and identify with.

In particular, parents who feel they may have created a bit of a monster with all the attention they’ve lavished on their little ones over the years will likely identify with the mother and father in the book, who alternate between being proud of their daughter and a little worried about her diva-ish ways! The balance is just right in how this is shown in words and pictures throughout the book. If you and your family enjoyed characters like Eloise, Olivia, and Fancy Nancy, this could be a good addition to your bookcase.

On top of being a fun ride, the story also beautifully demonstrates the way in which families can love unconditionally, no matter whether a child is shining bright on the stage, or experiencing a low. The book is a good reminder that familial support can help children to stay true to themselves and become confident, resilient, optimistic humans. It also shows young readers that no one is perfect, and that it’s enough to just try things and explore your passions.

The funky, colourful illustrations by Amsterdam-based Joanne Lew-Vriethoff are a perfect match for the text. Kiely’s personality and feelings really leap off the page with each spread and, while there is plenty of white space throughout, there are also plenty of details too, when it comes to facial expressions of other characters, the setting, and more. This will enable kids to pick up on additional layers with re-readings. The illustrations are energetic just like Kiely, and depict lots of movement. I also loved seeing such a diverse cast of characters depicted.

Fittingly, a follow-up book is also in the works. I Used to Be Famous is due in 2019 and, as you might imagine, will revolve around how Kiely must suddenly share the spotlight when a sibling arrives.

The story is recommended for children aged around four years and up.

Please note that a complimentary copy of the book was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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