Monday, August 9, 2010
A Beach Tail
Swish Swoosh! Greg's journey takes him past such landmarks as a jellyfish, a sandcastle, a ghost crab hole and more. How will he find his way back to Dad? Fortunately, he has his stick and Sandy's tail with him the whole way.
This rhythmic text is paired with Floyd Cooper's brilliant illustrations, revealing the trip down the beach entirely from a child's point of view. The art and text show a gentle father-son bond and reassures young readers even as they share Greg's moment of worry."
One detail that I especially love is that this book portrays an African-American father and son spending time together. Their race is not mentioned in the text, rather Floyd Cooper's lovely illustrations reveal this detail. Race is not the focus of the story as is the case in so many books about children of color in which the plot focuses on slavery, racism, the civil rights movement, etc. Those books are important, of course, but they need to be balanced with books like this one that portray a "slice of life" for people of color in which their race does not define the plot of the book.
For more on this topic, please check out the Publisher's Weekly blogpost by Elizabeth Bluemle titled "The Elephant in the Room." You can also follow The Open Book, (children's book publisher Lee and Low's blog), and Coloring Between the Lines (Author/illustrator Anne Sibley OBrien's Blog).
As I think back on my years as a Grade 4 Teacher, I'm sure the books I read with my class were too heavily focused on social issues and not enough on "slice of life stories." I am much more aware of this issue now that I have kids of my own and I write for children, too. Plus, there are more good examples being published every day. I hope you'll support these books by purchasing them or checking them out of the library. As demand grows, publishers will seek more titles. (Two great publishers to check out are Lee and Low and Shen's Books).
Are you a teacher, parent, or homeschooler? Have you considered this point of view regarding books about children of color? Analyze the books you read with your kids. Are people of different races, ethnicities and religions represented? In those books you've read, is the character's race, ethnicity, or religion the defining characteristic? Can you recommend any good books to us?