I Promise is a beautiful book. Illustrator Nina Mata's colors are bright and her children diverse, which James has said was his definite vision, but what really drew my kids in were the little moments she created, the little things that end up being big things: slamming down on your hand when you trip over a jump rope, or being the only one who is scared to get on the school bus.
While there isn't a main character in I Promise, there is one little girl who appears several times. The image of her sitting on a bench, so small that her feet don't even touch the ground, leaning her head on her brother's shoulder after she fails to sink a basketball, brought me and my kids very near tears (my kids started hugging all over each other; it was nice while it lasted), and they immediately started talking about the challenges in their own lives, hard moments may seem small to grown-ups but are huge for kids.
And LeBron James' promises are huge too. "I promise to use kindness when I speak" is no small thing to kids who sass with almost every breath, and "I promise to remain strong and humble with every win and defeat" seems almost insurmountable to a six-year-old who cries when she loses at Sleeping Queens (not to mention a ten-year-old who rubs it in when he wins at Sleeping Queens).
But the promises are supposed to be huge. LeBron James will be the first to tell you that he didn't know if the dreams he had as a kid would ever be a reality. He will be the first to tell you that it was the promises he made to himself that helped him forge a path out of his difficult childhood, but he will also be the first to tell you that promises are not enough.
"When I was growing up in Akron, I always had big dreams," he writes. "Because of the situation we were in, I didn't always know if those dreams would be possible. The purpose of these promises we make to ourselves and to each other, and that we're sharing with kids across the world in this book, is to tell them they can do anything they put their minds to if they commit to doing the hard work."