Grade Level: Preschool – 3
I See You is a wordless picture book that depicts a homeless woman who is unseen by everyone around her – except for a little boy. Over the course of a year, the boy is witness to all that she endures. Ultimately, in a gesture of compassion, the boy acknowledges her through an exchange in which he sees her and she experiences being seen.
This book opens the door for kids and parents to begin a conversation about homelessness.
Includes a Note for Parents, Educators, and Neighbors which talks about homelessness, lists discussion questions and provides additional resources about how to help.
- Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2019 Grand Prize Short List
- 1st Runner Up – 2019 Eric Hoffer Award Children’s Category
In his new children’s book, “I See You,” Michael Genhart tells the story of a woman experiencing homelessness and a young boy who is the only one who seems to notice her. The catch is that he tells the whole tale without writing a single word.
The story, told entirely through illustrations by artist Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, shows a little boy’s growing curiosity and concern for a local homeless woman he sees from his window every day. He watches the daily stigma and hardship she experiences over the course of a year as she sits at the bus stop.
Throughout most of the book, the woman is illustrated in black and white while the other smiling people who sit at cafes, walk by with their shopping bags, paste advertisements for “Luxury Condos on Sale,” or wait for the bus are depicted in vibrant color. When people do take notice of the woman, it is to pinch their noses or to sweep her angrily off their doorstep. Her humanity remains invisible. In the end, when the boy gives the woman his favorite blanket as a holiday gift, the bystanders finally take notice of her. The boy’s gift returns her color and her visibility to the rest of the world.
Genhart said he chose not to use narrative in the story because he “didn’t want to tell people what to think or feel.” Illustrations facilitate more questions and can spark a conversation in the classroom or between parents and children. The use of color shows the contrast between everyday life for many people and the isolation and invisibility felt by the woman experiencing homelessness. (click on link above for full review)
“I See You” is a wordless picture book that depicts a homeless woman who is not seen by everyone around her — except for a little boy. Over the course of a year, the boy is witness to all that she endures. Ultimately, in a gesture of compassion, the boy acknowledges her in an exchange in which he sees her and she experiences being seen. “I See You” opens the door for children ages 4 to 8 and their parents to begin a conversation about homelessness. In a “Note for Parents, Educators, and Neighbors,” there are discussion questions and additional resources about helping the homeless. Exceptional, unique, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and providing a thoroughly entertaining story with an underlying and positive message, “I See You” is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library social issue themed picture book collections.
This wordless tale depicts the trials of a homeless woman whom only one boy can see. For a year, only he sees all that she endures having no home and very few personal belongings. Not to mention, not a soul reaches out to help her. Finally, in a heartwarming display of compassion, the little boy acknowledges her with a simple gesture. “I See You” is an ideal conversation starter to approach the difficult subject of homelessness.
What I like about this book: Michael Genhart’s wordless picture book is about heart, compassion and connecting with others. It is the a perfect medium to open the door for children and parents to begin a conversation about the many kinds of homelessness. It also encourages children to study the detailed illustrations a little more carefully and use their imaginations to tell the story. The boy is an inspiration and reminder of a child’s untainted generosity.
The emotion and candor captured by this story are beautifully brought to life in Joanne Lew-Vriethoff’s heartfelt and vivid illustrations. They are particularly important in evoking the necessary caring response from the boy and the annoyance of strangers.
Resources: In a Note for Parents, Educators, and Neighbors, there are discussion questions and additional resources about helping the homeless. There is also a section on how children can get involved by making very simple Care Bags. There are many activities kid can do to help the homeless: donate to local food pantries, donate clothing and toiletry items, books, clean toys to shelters. Visit Michael Genhart at his website.
Changing the Narrative Around Homelessness In Dallas
… “Interestingly though, for my 6-year-old, a wordless book was most striking. “I See You,” by author Michael Genhart and illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff tells the tale of a woman who is experiencing homelessness. She is considered invisible or undesirable by everyone in each page of the book. Without any written words, the pictures depict her unwantedness in the neighborhood of a young boy, the other key protagonist.
Over the course of a year, with seasonal changes apparent in the images, the boy begins to take note of the woman. Finally, at the end of the book, he and his parents approach her at a busy bus stop and give her a blanket, not only acknowledging her, but attempting to provide relief.
Without any words to read, my daughter was drawn to the pictures and the details of each page. The pain of a woman who cannot be seen. The angry faces of those who consider her a nuisance. The choices of some to acknowledge a person’s humanity.” …
…”Let me be clear. Education will not solve homelessness. But if I can teach my kids—and you can teach your loved ones, and our schools can teach their students, and our neighborhood associations can facilitate more empathetic discussions—maybe we can learn to understand that homelessness is a humanitarian crisis. If a 6-year-old can learn to connect with a woman at her most vulnerable state, perhaps Lee Kleinman, his City Hall colleagues, and all Dallas residents can, as well.”