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Book Review: I Just Am

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Book Review: I Just Am
Cover image courtesy of Five Star Publications Inc.

The Bottom Line

By Bryan and Tom Lambke; 85 pages. Subtitle: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance

If you're looking for a book to explain Down syndrome to children or teens -- anyone, really, who responds to photos and captions better than long detailed text -- I Just Am is an excellent choice. Through photos and good-humored captions, Bryan Lambke tells about his life as a person with Down syndrome, and a person with two jobs, and a person with two girlfriends, and a person who loves nachos and pizza, and asks "If this isn't 'normal,' what is?"

About the Guide Rating

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Pros

  • Photos of Bryan Lambke from childhood to present are delightful
  • Captions make their point with good humor
  • Gives a good sense of who Bryan is, over and above "a person with Down syndrome"
  • Short articles at back of book give good information on Down syndrome in an easily grasped format
  • An excellent resource for explaining Down syndrome to children and teens

Cons

  • Articles before the photo section clutter the book a bit
  • Quality of the photos varies
  • Sad to think that negative attitudes toward people with Down syndrome still exist

Description

  • Foreword by Shannon D.R. Ringenbach, Ph.D. (1 page)
  • Preface by Tom Lambke (2 pages)
  • Introduction by Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, daughter of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (7 pages)
  • I Just Am (68 pages)
  • First ... Some Facts (2 pages)
  • More Facts About Down Syndrome (2 pages)
  • Medical Problems Associated With Down Syndrome (2 pages)
  • Language Guidelines (2 pages)
  • Did You Know ... (1 page)
  • Welcome to Holland (2 pages)

Guide Review - Book Review: I Just Am

Boy, do I wish I'd had this book six months ago.

That's about the time my daughter read a novel in her high school English class that had a character with Down syndrome. The book, being several decades old, referred to that character as a Mongoloid. And sure, I understand that was the term at the time, and I wouldn't want the book to be banned or the word to go undiscussed.

What floored me was when the teacher put "Mongoloid" on the vocabulary list, to be used in a sentence and memorized for a test. When I suggested this was not appropriate, she insisted it was an outdated term but not an offensive one.

How I wish I could have sent in this book, with a suggestion that the class read it together and discuss its message. I would have put a sticky note on the pages where Bryan Lambke, a young man with Down syndrome, writes "People call us Mongoloids. I think that's in China. Yes our eyes are slanted. Do all Chinese people have disabilities? I am told I am retarded. Gosh, I do not like that word. Can't you just come up to me and say, 'Hey, how is your day?'"

I would also have highlighted the text in the "First ... The Facts" section on how the term "Mongoloid" came to be applied to people with Down syndrome, and how it is "obsolete and should never be used."

I don't know if it would have gotten through to the teacher, but I know that my daughter and her classmates would have enjoyed the photos and irreverent captions, and may have gotten from that a new sense of how cool and "normal" a guy with Down syndrome can be. And that may do more to squelch name-calling than anything else.

The photo essay is the excellent centerpiece of I Just Am, and though there's some interesting material before and after it, I almost wish it wasn't so cluttered up with all of that. Pictures speak volumes, and these do the job.

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