I and I: Bob Marley by Tony Medina

bob-marleyCindy: I’m embarrassed by how much I didn’t know about Bob Marley. I have visited Jamaica twice, listened to his music for decades, purchased a 4-foot carved statue of him this spring to feature at our backyard tiki bar and hosted a grad party for my daughter with a Jamaican/ rasta/ reggae theme. I should know this guy. I and I: Bob Marley (Lee & Low, 2009) filled in many gaps in my Bob Marley knowledge. Read Gillian Engberg’s starred review at the link above for a stellar critique.

Medina presents Bob’s life through a series of poems illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson’s bright paintings. The end notes provide more details about the events of each poem and I read them alternately with the poems. Bob’s real first name was Nesta which means Messenger. He became one through his music as he attempted to give voice to the rude-boys, the poor, underprivileged class. His songs were not initially played on Jamaican radio stations due to their strong political content so it was popularity in England that first brought reggae to the world. His songs also included messages of love, peace and unity. In fact, the title of the book reinforces this. One of the meanings of “I and I” is an alternate term for “we” in Jamaican grammar, signifying that we should not think of ourselves as individuals but as part of a larger community. Medina also explains that one possible origin for the name “reggae” comes from the Jamaican patois word for rude-boys: the “streggae.”

After a childhood as the local palm reader, in 1969 Bob predicted he would die at the age of 36. His prediction came true after a soccer injury in his right toe developed into cancer, for which he refused treatment. In April I was disappointed that our big statue did not survive the airline’s rough handling and arrived with the right foot broken off. After reading the bio, I’ve realized that our statue is now a more accurate tribute to the man.

Add this picture book verse biography to your high school and middle school collections and promote it with the reluctant readers who gravitate to the Tupac and Selena slim bios. Better yet, just put it on display and the attractive cover will keep it in circulation.




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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