Why Am I Here? / by Constance Ørbeck-Nilssen & Akin Duzakin. 4.17.2017

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers ISBN 9780802854773

PRI K-Grade 3 Rating: 4

In Why Am I Here? by Ørbeck-Nilssen & Akin Duzakin, a young girl ponders why and how a person is born in the exact place he or she exists rather than a number of other places that could have been possible in this great big world. The child wonders how she might have been different or the same if born in, for example, a bustling city or a dry desert, or if she had grown up in a country constantly at war. What would life be like and would she still have these same questions? Does anyone have the answers she seeks?

The focus–or rather theme–of this book is as old as time itself and as complex as the most intricate workings of the universe. The meaning of life, and of one’s very existence and purpose, have been reflected upon by some of the greatest philosophers of history. Yet, here the authors put such contemplations into thoughts that elementary children can understand and relate to. Much of the text consists of questions. As the girl reflects upon her questions about life, she never really comes to an absolute answer, though she draws some possible conclusions or suggestions. Ultimately, this allows the book to be a springboard for helping children consider life, purpose, identity, and belonging, without fully influencing their final conclusions, leaving that to the gentle, loving guidance of parents and guardians, as well as the child’s own feelings and convictions.

The text itself appears on a clean white background, drawing the reader’s eyes to the corresponding page’s beautiful illustrations. Overall, this book is a short, contemplative read that will inevitably lead to valuable conversation and reflection for young and old to share in together.

Justina McBride, CLJ