We Recommend: Books About Skin Color. Wow.

It's
We Recommend! Where you write in to see if we can find the perfect book
for your kid, and we, you know, try to do that. If you'd like a
recommendation, just email us at thediamondinthewindow [at] gmail [dot]
com, with as much relevant (and irrelevant, why not?) information as you
can, and we'll try to find the perfect book. And the truth is, even if
we don't find it, all the great suggestions are in the comments. – See
more at:
http://www.thediamondinthewindow.com/the-diamond-in-the-window/we-recommend/#sthash.ikrjG5Vb.dpuf

It's We Recommend, yet again, where we try to find you (or your loved one, or at least your liked one) the perfect book. Need a recommendation? Send us an email at thediamondinthewind (at) gmail (dot) com, with the person's likes, loves, hates etc, and we will do our best with it. And truthfully, all the good stuff is in the comments.

Here is one that confused me, then made me uncomfortable, then made me think, then stymied me. Here goes:

I have 4 year old twin girls who are starting to notice other people's skin color. My girls love books and we read to them all the time about everything and anything. However, I did a little bit of research, and all the books on skin color and/or prejudice seem so, I don't know, pedantic? Sanctimonious? I want
my girls to be engaged in their books, not just taught a lesson. So,
I'd love it if you or any of your readers have any suggestions.
At first I thought: Well, why do we need to talk about this so directly? I mean, there's your problem right there. And then I thought: DUH. Of COURSE we need to talk about this. It reminded me of Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, which was actually sort of great, particularly grownup's self-conscious demonstration of her lack of prejudice: any time someone refers to race or color of the "black or white" variety, she adds "or purple!" in that particular self-congratulatory way familiar to so many of us.

ANYWAY. This seemed  (once I got over my knee-jerk "I'm uncomfortable talking about race" thing) like an excellent thing to look for. Indeed, kids, at least some of them, do notice skin color, and it's true, too, that the books that talk about it directly have a major task on their hands, and probably struggle with it. But the problem is: I don't know any good options. My general idea would be: 1) just find any book that has people in it and talk about skin color yourself (all those excellent "Children Like Me" books about kids all around the world might be good for a large range of skin), and 2) maybe a science book? Go the melanin route?
But truly, I feel like these are half measures and not what she's asking for at all. So. Dear readers, especially you librarians out there: got anything?

15 thoughts on “We Recommend: Books About Skin Color. Wow.

  1. In years of commenting, I don’t think I’ve ever pitched one of our books here but I feel like this question was at the heart of why we chose to publish “What is a Family” by Tamia Sheldon. It comes out on September 17th in both eBook and paperback editions and is meant to get kids talking about their own families while seeing that not all families look the same. Each page features a family (big, small, multiracial, single parents, gay parents, Dick-and-Jane traditional, and more) doing something together with a short prompt for the kids reading to talk about their own families.
    The author/illustrator created it for her sister, a teacher, to use in her classroom and so far we’ve heard some great response.
    //pitch

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  2. Hmm. What about Of Thee I Sing by Obama? It shows contributions of many people who speak different languages and look very different. It could open some avenues for conversation.
    I’ll keep thinking…

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  3. The “melanin route” may feel like a half measure to us, but may also be exactly the question from a 4-year-old. There is a book in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out series about skin, “Your Skin and Mine” which includes information about melanin (and other skin facts like cuts/healing, fingerprints, other things I don’t remember) that worked for our kiddo on a variety of levels at different ages. So you had the technical info on what makes skin different colors, you learned about all sorts of ways skin of any colors is/functions exactly the same, and then you had something to refer back to or use as a jumping off point for the bigger conversations or questions about race. But I remember the first questions really actually only being about color. And when I gently mentioned some simple-minded thing about different not being better or worse, getting something along the lines of “well, duh” back from my preschooler.

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  4. My guess is that the question goes deeper than just why there are different skin colors. I’d recommend checking out award-winning picture books such as the Coretta Scott King Award, Pura Belpre Medal, the Americas Award, and Oyate book reviews. You will be able to find books that present windows into other races and cultures.
    http://oyate.org/
    http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpremedal
    http://www4.uwm.edu/clacs/aa/
    http://www.ala.org/emiert/cskbookawards

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  5. Take a look at “if the world was a village” and “If America was a village” which takes a nice look at diversity/differences in experiences in a manageable way that would be interesting to kids and adults (but maybe not as young as 4?)

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  6. The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler. Shades of People by Shelly Rotner.
    And yes, totally knee jerk issue but let me tell you a storyyyyyyy lucy!
    When I was maybe 4? I was at the doctor’s office for gods knows what weird childhood ailment and there was an african american child there as well. I had never seen anyone that wasnt white and jewish before (very jewish area plus private school plus private camp yadda yadda)
    So I saw him and said VERY loudly, as children do when embarassing you: How come I HAVE to take a bath every night?? Look at how dirty he is!!!
    *dies*
    Yeah. Talk to kids about differences and how differences are normal or your kids will totally humiliate you.

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  7. How about More, More More said the Baby. It does not address it head on, just shows different kinds of families with different color skins (one “white” grandma and a darker skinned grandchild)
    Maybe instead of talking about different color skin, just expose kids to books that show varying ethnicities.

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  8. My daughter said something about skin color 2 days after I read the blog you linked to so it was still fresh in my mind. It spurred me on to find some good books about the issue.
    I did get Black is Brown is Tan from the library last week, and it is a lovely book/poem/meditation about color. Thanks for the other rec.

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  9. What a Family! by Rachel Isadora. Traces traits through an extended family with members from a range of races. Great drawings give each family member heaps of character. Lots of fun!

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  10. I wish I had some book suggestions of my own, but I’m excited to check out some of these with my (half Mexican, but phenotypically white and blue-eyed) four-year-old.
    Someone commented on my blog, when I posted about this issue, that his daughter’s teacher had, at the beginning of the school year, requested that the children find and bring in a crayon that matched the skin color of each member of their families–so my mom is burnt umber, and my dad is peach, and I’m tan, or whatever. And that struck me as an awesome idea, because they’re looking at skin color as a spectrum, not as discreet categories. Not a book, but maybe another way to come at the issue.

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  11. “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox is a sweet picture book that says we’re all the same, even though we look different and live in different ways.

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  12. This one goes back a ways but when my kids were little Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Bernette G. Ford. Published in 1990 but sweet – keep talking that’s the point

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