From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 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
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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
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