“I Am” Portrait

Purchase I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes at Bookmarks.

Fall 2020 Kids Indie Next List!

“When we speak of beauty, we think of inside and out. Derrick Barnes has given us a book that directly connects us to the real beauty of the Black boy. An uplifting story, brought to life with vibrant images from Gordon C. James, provides the reader with the opportunity to breathe deeply and reflect. I will be handing this out to children, adults, and educators. It is a book for everyone, and it is more important than ever.”
— Kirsten Hess, Let’s Play Books!, Emmaus, PA

An upbeat, empowering, important picture book from the team that created the award-winning Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

I am
a nonstop ball of energy.
Powerful and full of light.
I am a go-getter. A difference maker. A leader.

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!

Every child is full of good things. Sometimes they don’t recognize all of the good that they have bursting inside of them, and they need someone to help them see this. Reading I Am Every Good Thing aloud with children in your life is a gift, and an open door to a conversation with those children about all the good things they are.

This conversation is a great confidence builder one on one with a child in your life, or with a group of children. One of my daughter’s fondest memories of elementary is when a teacher set up a system for all the children to write notes to each other – just one sentence – about something they admired about the other person. It was ongoing, and my daughter still has her little collection of notes. Hearing the positive remarks from your peers goes a long way in boosting the self esteem of a child.

Gather around and read this book, start a conversation about what makes each child good and wonderful and put all of those positive words into this art project.


  • watercolor paper
  • watercolors
  • large paint brush
  • cup of water
  • painters tape
  • bubble wrap or saran wrap
  • colored markers
  • white, grey or brown cardstock or construction paper
  • black marker
  • scissors
  • glue stick


click images for larger view

  • Tape the watercolor paper to your work surface. This is optional, but it will help with curling, and bonus, you have a clean frame around your work.
  • Choose the colors you are going to work with. You will need to work fast, which is why a larger paint brush is suggested. For the technique of adding bubble wrap or saran wrap to obtain a pattern, the paint must be wet. 
  • Paint the entire page.
  • Immediately place a sheet of bubble wrap on top of the paint. If you choose to use saran wrap, immediately place on top, then scrunch up the saran wrap. 
  • Allow time to dry. 
  • Once dry, pull the bubble wrap or saran wrap off to reveal the texture. 
  • Peel the painters tape off carefully, pulling it away from the paper at an angle to avoid tearing.
  • The image on the top right shows bubble wrap texture.
  • The image on the bottom right shows saran wrap texture.
  • Use colored markers to write all the things that are good about you. 
  • Switch out the colors to blend in with the background color as you write.
  • On the sheet of construction paper or cardstock, draw your portrait using a black marker. You can draw it in pencil first if you prefer, then trace over the lines with black marker.
  • Cut your portrait out, leaving a thin white edge around it.
  • Glue your portrait onto the written words.


  • If you’re creating this with a classroom, or even a small group of friends, have each child share one good thing about each other. Incorporate these words into your artwork. Parents and caregivers can also add their postitive words for a child to incorporate.
  • If you have a camera and printer, take a photo and print it in black and white instead of drawing your portrait.
  • Your portrait doesn’t have to be skin tone, greyscale or black and white. If you prefer to add all the beautiful colors of your skin, hair, and eyes – you can! It’s your artwork, and you should make it your own.
  • Do you feel like being a superhero? Make a mask out of colorful paper and glue on top of your portrait.
  • Don’t want your words covered up? Draw your portrait before you write, and then write around the portrait.


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