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All You Can Be

By Angela Casabene & Michelle Conn

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

This love letter to children everywhere is Angela’s first picture book inspired by her own two daughters. Michelle lives in Victoria and works in both traditional and digital media to illustrate characters and scenes from a range of perspectives. She likes to experiment with composition, light and colour to bring a cinematic look to her work. All You Can Be is their first collaboration.
The book follows one day at the beach beginning with a little girl on a pier, pinned to the ground afraid to dive in and join the other swimmers. We follow her as she explores the beach, flies her kite, dances with new friends and braves the surf before ending the day picnicking and stargazing with her family. This simple framework adds structure to the text and allows the reader to identify with a character, in this case a little girl, as the words are general and can apply to anyone.
It was while on a holiday in Merimbula that Michelle found the inspiration for the location of the book. The colours of the seaside town inspired the ice cream palette that makes each page such delight. Each scene is full of incident inviting the child reader to explore and comment.
Told in pitch perfect verse that bounces with a familiar rhythm this is not only an exhortation to children everywhere to be brave and  strong when facing life’s challenges, but also to be comfortable with being wrong, confident with being silly, and thoughtful enough to be kind.
Angela’s writing is perceptive and straightforward. She  encourages and instructs without being preachy or didactic. The repetition of ‘Be all you can be’ is a gentle affirmation at the end of each stanza brought to glorious life by the imaginative artwork.
This beautiful book is classic example of text and illustration coming together to create and extend meaning beyond the words and pictures. Many children will enjoy this rewarding packed ‘day at the beach’ and, with some adult discussion, will gain insight into how to live a full and satisfying life.
Affirm Press 2023
Angela Casabene
Michelle Conn
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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