Let's Talk About Race
Written by Julius Lester
Illustrated by: Karen Barbour
"But you want to know something? If I went outside without my skin, my mustache and the hair on my head (what little I have left), I would look just like you. And you would look just like me."
Lester has created a book that gets people thinking. Thinking about their own life and how they are unique as well as how they are special and important no matter what you look like. This book is so much more than race to me. It can touch on differences of all kinds and the fact that no matter how or why we are different we are all people and are no better than the next person.
Let's Talk About Race starts out with Lester stating "I am a story. So are you. So is everyone." He goes through to tell you some of his story as well as ask questions for you to stop and think about your story. He lets everyone know that we all have many things that make up our story some are the same but some are different. The placement of text in this book really intrigued me. It was very much a part of the story as the illustrations were. I feel like I am reading a journal that Lester has written and decorated more than a book. I especially liked the page where he creates a lists of elements that make up his story. This would be something very simple to have the children recreate and discuss to talk about how they are alike and different from each other based on part of their "story."
The illustrations are also very bright and span the pages. They are very busy which I think might give a little bit of uneasy feeling while reading the story. I think this, however, goes with the story. The story itself is about an uneasy topic that people sometimes have trouble talking about. Most of the illustrations involve people that look "different." They are different colors they are not seen to be actual representations of real people. When Lester is talking about a certain event such as that his father was a minister and mother a housewife, the illustrations become more real. The mother is dressed and hanging laundry. I think the author did a great job of bridging the gap between Lester telling about his own story and the imaginary world that could be your story.
While I read this I immediately thought about an activity that I do with my Kindergartners every year. This activity involves two eggs. One white and the other brown. We discuss how the eggs are different on the outside. Then we crack them and see that although they are different on the outside they are the same on the inside. I then cook the eggs and we see that they are the same both eggs even though they look different. This gives us a great conversation about how we are all the same on the inside but can look different. This book would be a great companion for that activity and could even further our discussion on how we are alike and different in many ways!