I and I Bob Marley

By Booklist

It’s surprising, given Bob Marley’s international fame and accessible, peace-promoting music, that there are so few books about his life available for youth. Medina, whose children’s books include Love to Langston (2002), helps fill the void with this glowing, substantive, picture-book biography in verse. Following the reggae legend from birth to death, the mostly chronological poems reveal a full portrait of the musician, moving from personal details to wider themes. In one poem, Marley’s words about his father encompass slavery, his biracial heritage, and the African Diaspora: “Papa is a white man so I’ve been told / My face a map of Africa in Europe’s hold.” In another, he speaks about both his love for music and the social justice he hopes to inspire: “We don’t want to / Land in jail / All we want to do is wail / Be the voice of the voiceless / Bring some happiness and / Consciousness to the down-pressed.” In the words and rhythms of Jamaican patois, Medina’s lyrical, direct lines make the most sense when read in tandem with the extensive appended notes, which explain the many specific references to Jamaican history, Rastafarianism, and Marley’s life events. Like the words, Watson’s beautifully expressive acrylic paintings evoke a strong sense of Marley’s remarkable life and his Caribbean homeland. A short bibliography of adult titles rounds out this rare, soulful tribute.