"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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