"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 [via]