Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Can I See Your I.D.?: True Stories of False Identities by Chris Barton and illustrated by Paul Hoppe is an intriguing look at ten people who actually did pretend to be someone else, carrying out extraordinary deceptions. This book is nominated for a Cybils in the MG/YA nonfiction category.
Chris Barton’s book The Day-Glo Brothers won the Cybils for picture book nonfiction two years ago, and a Sibert Honor in 2010. Can I See Your I.D.? benefits from the same feeling of discovery of people with a unique lives that have been previously overlooked, and the same deep research into each individual’s deception, exploring their motivations and the outcomes. It is really ten short biographies under one cover.
Starting with a young man who manages to trick the New York City Transit Authority into letting him operate the A Train, to a high school dropout who serves as a navy surgeon, to a woman who passes herself off as a male soldier during the Civil War, it is truly amazing what these imposters are able to carry out. In fact, reading the book might entice someone to give it a try if Barton hadn’t included so much information about how stressful it was to pretend to be someone else. In many of the examples the deception was not voluntary, but a response to a desperate situation.
Barton uses a strong second-person point of view to tell these stories. Not wanting to sound like a hypocrite because I often use the second person voice myself, I still found the second voice a bit overpowering. It typically works best in a paragraph or two at the beginning to draw the reader in. Using it too much can interfere with getting to know the characters. Maybe Barton intended this, trying to recreate the feeling of disorientation that the people who were hiding their identities must have felt. In that case, it’s a brilliant idea, but I’m not sure it really worked.
That said, if you (couldn’t resist) are a teacher who is teaching point of view, here is an example of the strongest use of the second person I can remember reading. Students will certainly find it riveting reading and, as many of the individuals were young people, will be able to relate to them. For a young reader who is interested in learning more about one of the individuals, there is an extensive bibliography on each person separately, making it easy to find out more.
Overall, Barton has once again captured the imagination with a fascinating look into people that have been passed by in other historical accounts.
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Dial (April 14, 2011)