I Can't See, But... I Can Imagine: Patricia Bennett Wilson
The Fire Thief: Terry Deary

I Can Do Anything: The Luster Family

I Can Do Anything! is a self-published picture book produced by the Luster family. As you might imagine by the title, the idea behind the book is to encourage kids to think positively, and to believe that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. The book is part of a larger CAN DO KID campaign originated by the Lusters, who also sell t-shirts, bumper stickers and kid-friendly nutrition bars (now available in retail stores such as Whole Food Markets around the US).

The book is a colorful, easily accessible production, with bright, busy pictures, and only a few phrases on each page. All of the phrases start with "I can." ("I can pretend", "I can be a good friend", "I can clap and sing", etc.) The forward suggests as a reading idea that parents let their child say the words "I can" aloud each time they arise. There are also various dogs, bunnies, and bugs hidden throughout the pictures, so that kids can make a game of finding them.

The book is about nine children, ages four to eight, including the three Luster children and an array of other culturally diverse kids (Japanese American, Mexican American, African American, and mixed race kids are all represented, as is some diversity of family composition). There is no actual plot to the story, but rather a series of pictures showing kids having fun, and doing positive things like learning, performing, playing at the beach, and so on.

As is apparent from yesterday's review, when I read books, whether they are for adults or kids, I tend to be fairly plot-driven. Believable characterization, excellent writing, gripping illustrations (where applicable), sure. Those are all important, too, and together render a book special. But the child in me still craves story above all else. A book that's primarily about conveying some particular message, however valuable the message might be, tends not to grab me. However, in spite of myself, I did like the lively pictures in I Can Do Anything!, with their diverse, cartoon-like portrayals of the nine kids. And if it works — if by reading this book together, parents can improve their kids' self-esteem — than it's a worthwhile thing.

I think that the Lusters are putting themselves out there to to help people to raise happier kids, and I applaud them for it. They donate part of their proceeds from the book to organizations benefiting women, children, and education. They participate in community events. And they include kid-friendly bios of each of the nine kids at the end of the book, bios which I found appealing. But if what I want is a story, then I'm going to have to keep looking...

Book: I Can Do Anything!
Author: The Luster Family, illustrated by Tina Sedonne
Publisher: Sealed with a Kiss Publishing
Original Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Source of Book: A review copy from a Luster family relative