Every once in a while, you read a picture book that just clicks. That’s how I felt when I paged through Sometimes, All I Need Is Me by Juliana Perdomo.
My first thought was that in many ways, it is a quiet book. What do I mean by quiet? It isn’t rowdy. There are no belly laughs. Physical comedy? That’s not something you are going to find in this book.
But it is sweet and strikes just the right note. In that way it is much like other classic picture books that many people describe as quiet. Think Owl Moon, Goodnight, Moon, and Dream Snow.
What is it that makes these books work? What do all three have? Depth and emotion.
In Sometimes, All I Need Is Me, the young narrator starts off discussing what she loves about her home. “It smells like cinnamon tea and feels like warm pajamas.” That is so amazingly specific and it all comes together to say, without saying it, that this is where she feels loved. Then in the next spread she shares how, when she is someplace different, she can bring the feeling of home with her. When she does this, she feels calm.
She then goes on to how she loves playing with her friend Matteo but she can be her own company. Paired spreads show the young narrator coping with a variety of situations and experiences.
If you’ve ever had a rejection letter that said your manuscript was too quiet, you might be wondering how a book like this found a home. “Quiet” when used negatively by an editor or agent often does mean quiet in the same way that we use it. It can mean that it is a book without an immediate hook, audience, or market.
Think of it that way and Perdomo’s book is not quiet. If you’ve been reading market listings lately, you may have seen comments from editors, agents, or publishers, that they want to see more SEL submissions. If you don’t know the term, SEL stands for Social-Emotional Learning. This is how the Committee for Children defines SEL:
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.
People with strong social-emotional skills are better able to cope with everyday challenges and benefit academically, professionally, and socially. From effective problem-solving to self-discipline, from impulse control to emotion management and more, SEL provides a foundation for positive, long-term effects on kids, adults, and communities.
As schools and parents work to help their children develop this type of self-awareness, there is a home for books like Sometimes, All I Need Is Me. Pick it up and see how to make a quiet-seeming picture book work.