Let's talk about race

Julius Lester

Book - 2005

The author introduces the concept of race as only one component in an individual's or nation's "story."

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[New York] : HarperCollinsPublishers 2005.
Main Author
Julius Lester (-)
Other Authors
Karen Barbour (illustrator)
1st ed
Physical Description
unpaged : col. ill
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

K-Gr. 3. With an chatty, interactive text that is clearly meant to generate discussion, and vividly colored, mixed-media artwork, this book, like bell hooks' Skin Again BKL S 15 04, considers race as only one aspect of a person's identity. Lester begins with a look at prejudice. He then goes anatomical: beneath everyone's skin are the same hard bones. Without clothes, skin, and hair, everyone looks the same. Well, gender sameness doesn't quite work (women's pelvic bones, for example, are larger), but kids will laugh at the notion of stripping down to the skeleton. They'll also think about the concept, especially because Lester speaks so personally, not only as a proud black man but also about where he lives and what he likes and dislikes. Barbour's pictures have a folkart feeling that aptly shows a rich diversity of individuals as well as the common humanity that connects people everywhere. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2005 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Adults unsure of how to begin talking about race will find in these pages a way to tap into the subject and the questions it raises. Lester (To Be a Slave) addresses readers as if he is speaking to each in private conversation. He explains his belief that each human being "is a story" and, by appealingly poking fun at himself, he begins to tell his own tale: "I was born on January 27, 1939... (I'm kind of old, huh?)." He describes a bit about his family, his favorite food, hobbies, religion, etc. "Oh," he pauses. "There's something else that is part of my story. I'm black. What race are you?" he asks readers, tapping into the tensions inherent in such a discussion. "Because people feel bad about themselves," Lester says, people sometimes claim, "My race is better than your race." But this isn't true, the author states simply. If we take our skin off-here Barbour (Fire! Fire! Hurry! Hurry!) paints a folk-style tableau of skeletons with cheerful smiles and arms upraised-"I would look just like you, and you would look just like me." Lester presents the wealth of human difference as a treasure trove for discovery, and Barbour's na?f-style spreads, flooded with birds and flowers and brimming with color, provide plenty of visual interest. The artist's recurring tree symbolism underscores Lester's suggestion of a shared human family tree. Ages 6-10. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-5-This stunning picture book introduces race as just one of many chapters in a person's story. Beginning with the line, "I am a story," Lester tells his own story with details that kids will enjoy, like his favorite food, hobbies, and time of day. Then he states, "Oh. There's something else that is part of my story-I'm black." Throughout the narrative, he asks questions that young readers can answer, creating a dialogue about who they are and encouraging them to tell their own tales. He also discusses "stories" that are not always true, pointing out that we create prejudice by perceiving ourselves as better than others. He asks children to press their fingers against their faces, pointing out, "Beneath everyone's skin are the same hard bones." Remove our skin and we would all look the same. Lester's engaging tone is just right and his words are particularly effective, maintaining readers' interest and keeping them from becoming defensive. The pairing of text and dazzling artwork is flawless. The paintings blend with the words and extend them, transporting readers away from a mundane viewpoint and allowing them to appreciate a common spiritual identity. This wonderful book should be a first choice for all collections and is strongly recommended as a springboard for discussions about differences.-Mary Hazelton, Warren Community School and Miller Elementary School, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Bold mixed-media compositions in startling colors are the highlight of this picture book that goes rather the long way around to say that race doesn't matter. Lester directly addresses the reader with questions (""How does your story begin?""), but the tone throughout is dogmatic, ending rather than beginning discussion. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A comforting direct address asks readers to think of themselves as stories, and to consider the elements of their stories: families, favorite foods, hobbies, etc.--"Oh. There's something else that is part of my story. It's part of yours, too. That's what race we are." Simply and confidently, the narrative encourages readers to reject the false stories--"I'm better than you because . . . "--and to focus on the stories that lie beneath the skin. Possibly the most effective exercise engages the reader directly by asking her to feel the bones under her skin, a multimedia demonstration of sorts of our universal kinship. The offering treads much of the same ground as bell hooks's Skin Again (2004), but its clear statement of its agenda much more successfully speaks to a child's concrete understanding of the world. Barbour's jewel-toned paintings provide a counterpoint with an appropriately kaleidoscopic array of many-hued children moving fluidly against brilliant backdrops. It's an effort that could easily founder under its own earnestness, but the lighthearted, avuncular tone and vivid art combine to make a surprisingly effective package. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-10) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.