I Am Here by Karen Kilpatrick & Tammy Do

This delightful children’s book is a wonderful reminder of the power of being present and engaged with your kids. It is, astonishingly, one of those books that does double duty as both a comfort to kids and as a nudge to their adult caretakers, handling both responsibilities with aplomb.

First, tho, let’s talk about the art. Tammy Do does amazing work with her multiracial cast of characters, adults and children, as they face all manner of adversity together. With gentle curves and a palette of predominantly pastels, her art perfectly captures the kind of soft yet unyielding love that children need in order to be able to face, endure and overcome the hardships that may come into their lives. Whether these be small things, like being too tired to keep working on a project, or bigger things, like hospitalizations, children are shown being lovingly supported by adults who listen and care. There is generous representation across races, with pains taken to show multiracial relationships as well.

Karen Kilpatrick was inspired to write this book by her own child’s hospitalization, and her love and commitment are palpable throughout. The reassurance that a particular caregiver will be there to listen and love you no matter what is so important for kids, not only to comfort them in the moment, but to help build up their self-esteem long-term. It also sets up a healthy template for future relationships kids might have as they grow older, as they learn how to behave towards and what to accept from others.

Part of my musings on this subject may have come from recently finishing a run of books where the children have been realistically if irresponsibly parented. I guess it’s just hard for me to understand why so many parents don’t think of their kids as autonomous human beings with wills and emotions of their own. Tho it’s worse when the parents who do recognize their kids’ independence proceed to trample all over their kids’ rights and needs without regard for anything but the parents’ own interests and convenience. Kids need love and trust, they need a warm, empathetic ear and space to grow. And, fortunately, there are books like I Am Here to remind parents of this.

For, as sweet and comforting as this book can be for kids, it’s also a reminder that parenting is a relationship that caretakers have got to show up for. It’s not possible to take away every pain a child may feel, but it is possible to reassure them that you’re in this together, that you have their back in helping them face obstacles, solve problems and make good choices. Some of the meter doesn’t scan as well as I’d like it to, but that’s a very small criticism of a book that conveys a very important message about what it really means to love and care for someone, especially when that person is dependent on you for so much.

I Am Here by Karen Kilpatrick & Tammy Do was published April 30 2024 by Genius Cat Books and is available from all good booksellers, including

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