Two New Diverse Books for Kids
A Review of
For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World
Michael W. Waters and Keisha Morris
Hardback: Flyaway Books, 2020.
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Talking Is Not My Thing
Hardback: Eerdmans, 2020.
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Reviewed by Erin Wasinger
For Beautiful Black Boys uses a narrative structure to convey both the gravity of this collective trauma and the unrelenting nature of racism in America. The main character (Jeremiah) ages before the reader as each page turn features another name from the news: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, the Charleston Nine. Jeremiah’s hair grows long, his hope dimmer — until his parents remind him of all the ways he can join many others in the pursuit of a better world.
Notably, the book doesn’t pretend that violence against black bodies will be “solved.” But Jeremiah feels empowered, and that’s the beautiful part of Beautiful Black Boys: empowering black boys who are becoming black men in America.
The book ends with a discussion guide to scaffold difficult conversations at home and school. Additional resources and a teaching guide are also available online.
Talking Is Not My Thing is a worthy and welcome addition to the small list of quality children’s picture books about autism.
The book is simple, colorful, artfully created. The very first spread, pages 1 and 2 of the narrative, begin with a thought bubble from a girl, an anthropomorphic cat. “I don’t speak, but my brother finds it easy!” Her brother is running toward her, calling her inside for dinner. The book repeats this simple pattern. The sister thinks, the brother speaks, always about everyday events (watching TV, brushing teeth, a lost toy).
Even though we read both her thoughts and Brother’s speech, her words drive the narrative. Most notably, Talking Is Not My Thing isn’t a “my sister has autism” story. This is meaningful. Sister is never disempowered; her mutism doesn’t prohibit us from hearing her. Instead, young elementary-aged kids may close the book with a better understanding of someone they recognize – be it a classmate, a sibling, or themselves.
Erin F. Wasinger is a writer, speaker, and an elementary school “library lady," as well as our Contributing Editor Specializing in Books for Young Readers. Erin’s also the cofounder of Spark Writers of Southern Michigan, blogger for MadeleineLEngle.com, and author of The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, 2017). Find her online at: ErinWasinger.com