A sensitive rendering of the conflict at the core of double consciousness.

AMERICA, MY LOVE, AMERICA, MY HEART

An unnamed narrator—or perhaps a collective narrator—with diverse cultural heritage seeks to know whether America loves them.

Front and back endpapers picture a United States flag with the Pledge of Allegiance printed in childlike handwriting. Within, gray-toned illustrations with accents of red, blue, and white depict people of color of all ages in outdoor and indoor settings: cities, fields and beaches, churches and schools. The text reads like a poem, narrated by a first-person voice who is, at first, unsure of their inclusion in the bold, brave United States. “Do you love me?” the voice asks its country. A series of questions addressed to “America,” some literal and some figurative, reveal an obsession with and a lack of confidence in the narrator’s relationship with their country, until at last the voice concludes that, despite all these questions, “America, I am you. / America, you are me.” The text incorporates occasional phrases in Louisiana Creole and in Spanish (both without translation), a choice that is explained in the author’s note as a reflection of her heritage. Through simple, poetic language and stark, symbolic imagery, Peoples-Riley delivers another powerful representation of the complex relationship between people of color and the country whose past and present call its love for some of its people into question. This book answers a deep fear about wholeness and belonging as it invites young readers to grow into its message.

A sensitive rendering of the conflict at the core of double consciousness. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299329-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Positively refreshing.

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HAIR LOVE

A black girl helps her dad learn how to give her the perfect hairstyle for a very special day.

Zuri’s voluminous head of hair “has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way.” She is pictured asleep with a large Afro framing her face. She is proud of her hair, which she sometimes wears in braids with beads like a princess and other times in pigtail puffs. But today is a special day. She knows Daddy is “worn-out” and probably needs a break, so she lets him sleep in while she looks up hairstyles on a tablet. When Daddy wakes and offers to help, he tries a series of hairstyles that just don’t work. Finally, Zuri grabs some hair supplies and shows him a tutorial. “Watching carefully… / Daddy combed, / parted, oiled, and twisted. / He nailed it!” Zuri is lovely and happy with her freshly done hairstyle, and when Mommy arrives to their “Welcome Home” sign, she loves Zuri’s look too. The digital illustrations feature details that feel just right: Zuri’s thick, textured hair, Daddy’s locs and tattoo, and dark-skinned Mom’s bright headwrap. While it’s unclear where Mommy is returning from (she is dressed casually and has a rolling black suitcase), this authentic depiction of a loving and whole black family broadens the scope of representation.

Positively refreshing. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55336-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kokila

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way.

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SULWE

With the help of a legend about Day and Night, a dark-skinned black child learns that she is beautiful inside and out.

Sulwe is “the color of midnight,” the darkest in her multihued family, and is teased in school. She tries everything to lighten her skin: an eraser, makeup, eating light foods, prayer. Her mother tells her she is beautiful and that her name, Sulwe, or “star,” refers to an inner brightness, but she can’t see it in herself. Then a shooting star comes to her window, sent by the night, and brings Sulwe out to tell her about Night and Day, two sisters who loved each other but were treated differently. When Night left after people called her names like “scary,” “bad,” and “ugly,” the people realized that they needed her. The stars added that “some light can only be seen in the dark.” After learning how Night and Day are both needed, Sulwe knows that she is “dark and beautiful, bright and strong.” Harrison’s glossy illustrations faithfully render the features of black people, allowing the beauty of different skin tones to shine, with deep purple tones in the darkness, reinforcing the story’s message. In an author’s note, Nyong’o shares her own past struggles with her complexion.

A thoughtfully layered text and powerful illustrations address this sensitive topic in a uniquely nurturing way. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2536-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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