I am Thomas by Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder (ill.)

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN: 978 1 742371429.
Highly recommended for children 8 and above. Thomas is not a child who is prepared to simply 'go with the flow'. He is not like other members of his family or community but is willing to question and go against the norms of society. As a teenager, he retreats into his music, to separate himself from the rest of the world. Despite the pressures brought to bear by those in authority, be they family, teachers, politicians, preachers or those in the forces, Thomas fails to relent or accept what he is told. Finally, Thomas seems set to board a bus, en route to a future of his own choosing.
Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder are again perfectly paired in this wonderful picture book. Gleeson is always prepared to challenge the reader through her ideas and Greder does not beautify those he depicts in his illustrations. Greder's use of colour adds a sense of positivity and strength to the pictures showing Thomas, the trappings of his childhood and the glimpse into his future. In direct contrast, the figures of authority are seen as powerful, often unattractive, black and white images, appearing to have a sense of menace about them.
This title is another to be used in picture book studies for upper primary students. Whilst containing powerful messages about coming of age, independence, peer pressure and conformity, this text leaves much unsaid and gives great opportunity for discussion with children, particularly in light of its open ended conclusion.
Jo Schenkel