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Just the Two of Us Hardcover – April, 2001

38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Just the two of us, we can make it if we try.... Just the two of us, you and I."

If you were a radio-owner on planet Earth circa 1998, you might have a hard time not bobbing your head--and, yes, maybe even rapping--along with this book from Will "Big Willie Style" Smith and illustrator Kadir Nelson.

That's because the words for Just the Two of Us are lifted from the lyrics to Smith's smash-hit single of the same name, a remake of the Bill Withers classic. True to the song, this radiantly drawn picture book follows a father as he watches his son grow into a man. Tender imagery (especially for hip-hop) details the dad's early, unfamiliar struggles with everything from child car seats to CD-ROMs, his aspirations ("Sometimes I wonder what you're gonna be, a general, a doctor, maybe an MC"), his worries ("Ooh there ain't no pain like from the opposite sex"), and his attempts to impart wisdom ("Always tell the truth, say your prayers, hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears").

Nelson, whose work has appeared in everything from Sports Illustrated to The New Yorker, seems an ideal foil for Smith's colloquial stylings, contributing rich, vibrantly colored spreads that evocatively capture the subject matter without being overly sentimental. A must for fans of Will Smith, especially "all the fathers out there holdin' it down" (to whom Smith gives "special props"). (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

Grammy-winner and actor Smith presents the lyrics of his hit song that borrows the refrain, "Just the two of us,/ Building castles in the sky./ Just the two of us,/ you and I," in its celebration of a father's love for his son. Featuring various fonts and type sizes for emphasis, the text scans best with Smith's rap delivery: "Sometimes I wonder what you're gonna be/ A general, a doctor, maybe an MC./ I wanna kiss you all the time/ But I will test that butt when you cut out of line./ Why'd you do that?" As he pledges devotion and offers advice to his son, the narrator's sentiment shines with sincerity. Describing the night he brought his newborn son home from the hospital, Smith states, "That night I don't think one wink I slept/ As I slipped out of my bed, to your crib I crept/ Touched your head gently, I felt my heart melt/ 'Cause I knew I loved you/ more than life itself." Emotion also runs deep in the paintings, which show the boy growing into a youth. The pictures rely on fairly conventional imagery: father holding up infant son against the sun, the two viewed in profile; father and mature son in thoughtful conversation on a beach at sunset. But Nelson effectively conveys the affirming message of the text. All ages.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic; First Edition edition (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439087929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439087926
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 10.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have always been partial to the idea of coupling genres. I like to see sculptures that are imaginatively lit, with music playing in the background. To take a song and turn it into a book was an inspired choice to me. As I read the words and look at the beautiful images, I feel strong emotions that are evoked by hearing the song in my mind. The effect is a lot like seeing a motion picture, or being in an emotion-filled moment with wonderful music resonating through your body. Whether or not you are a single father, this book will move you in beautiful ways.
The book builds from a father's reminiscences about what it was like to become a man, a father, and then to take on the sole parenting role after a divorce. Every father will remember having these same emotions, and will be glad to have memories of them reawakened.
The book begins with:
"I told my parents I wanted to build a castle in the sky."
"'Here's a pencil and paper, let's draw the plans,' they replied."
The book ends with:
"My son told me he wanted to build a castle in the sky."
"'Here's a pencil and paper, let's draw the plans,' I replied."
The song has many other inspiring lyrics that work well here. Some of my favorites include:
"I pledge my life to you."
"a little me"
"I wanna kiss you all the time."
"I try to be a tough dad, but you keep making me laugh . . . ."
"It didn't work out with me and your mom . . ./You were conceived in love."
"One day some girl's gonna break your heart."
"Throughout life people will make you mad . . . /Let God deal with the things they do . . . .
Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Judy K. Polhemus VINE VOICE on September 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
"Just the two of us,
Building castles in the sky.
Just the two of us,
You and I."

Every time I came to this refrain in the book, I sang it to the Bill Withers's song of the same title. Sure enough--right on the copyright page is accredited the 1980 song used in this book, "Just the two of us." That is when I discovered also that this was a hit rap song by Will Smith. I knew he was a rapper, but never listened, so I was not familiar with the song.

"Just the Two of Us" was adapted by Smith in this celebration of fatherhood and responsibility. It is also Smith's song about his deep and abiding love for his son. According to the lyrics, Smith fell in love at seventeen. When his girlfriend became pregnant, they did the responsible thing and were married. It ended at some point with Smith obtaining custody.

Just as his parents before him, Smith works to teach his son how to be a man: "Dignity, integrity, honor..." and "Always tell the truth, say your prayers, hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears..."

The closing words: "Daddy loves you! Daddy loves you! for the rest of your life." These are words that spring tears because of the power of their declaration. You know Will Smith means what he says.

The third part of the collaboration is the artwork of Kadir Nelson: beautiful, intense, and vivid, rendered in pencil and oil paint. I'm not sure why he adds the little exaggerations like that awful sway in Smith's back and the large skulls of both Smith and his son. Those are not very attractive, but not enough to take away from the gorgeous sunset picture of Smith and his son--orange sky, seagulls sweeping low, making a catch

At any rate the original Withers song as the creative source, plus the top-selling rap version, placed into a combination book of bright, happy yet realistic illustrations. This is a book that stays checked out in my school library.

Good job, Will Smith, on all fronts!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bill Fyffe Jr. on June 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One day, I came home from work and found my daughters watching a television sitcom called, "The Fresh Prince of BelAir". Will Smith played the title role of a young man whose mom uprooted him from the tough streets of West Philly to the care of his affluent aunt and uncle in BelAir, California. The storyline hilariously depicted Will's adjustment from rags to riches with his new family; and moreover, their adjustment to their new relative. From that moment on, I became a big fan of Will Smith, watching every episode of the show, and following his career as a movie actor. Needless to say, he is a multi-talented and gifted entertainer.
Just the other day, I was in a local bookstore and ventured on over to the children's section and found this little book that Will had written. I lifted it from the display and began to read it, and with tears welling up in my eyes, was introduced to the softer, fatherly side of the Fresh Prince. Furthermore, the story caused me to reflect on the good times that I had growing up with my dad, and the importance for all dads to spend significant amounts of time with their young sons. It would be a great book for fathers and sons to read together, and would make a perfect Father's Day gift.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TheRAWKidzReview on June 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Will Smith bases Just the Two of Us on his rap song of the same title. The book shows a father giving advice on growing up and sharing his experiences with his son. The book instills good morals and values while showing love, support, and encouragement. The pictures by Kadir Nelson are simply breathtaking and show the life stages of a baby growing into a young man. This highly recommended book gives testimony to the unique relationship between father and son.
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