Could there be a better time for "Antiracist Baby" to arrive?
The board book from Ibram X. Kendi, the award-winning author of "Stamped From the Beginning" and "How To Be An Antiracist," has been in the works for much longer than the recent protests. Yet it publishes at a time when many parents are searching for ways to educate their children about racism and diversify their bookshelves.
That aligns with the goal of Statesman Selects Kids, which since 2018 has showcased inclusive picture books in collaboration with BookPeople’s Modern First Library program. For this edition, we’ve focused solely on Black authors.
"Antiracist Baby" (Kokila/Penguin, $8.99), written by Kendi and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, offers nine ways parents can foster antiracism in their children, with rhyming explanatory text: "Antiracist Baby doesn’t see certain groups as ‘better’ or ‘worse.’/Antiracist Baby loves a world that is truly diverse."
Importantly, Kendi drills down on specifics in addition to offering big-picture aspirations. He condenses meaningful prescriptions into just a few words. "Confess when being racist," he counsels in the title for one section. "Nothing disrupts racism more than when we confess/ the racist ideas that we sometimes express." And: "Antiracist Baby learns all the colors not because race is true/If you claim to be color-blind, you deny what’s right in front of you."
It’s a powerful board book that topped bestseller lists even before its publication last week. Two days after it arrived on shelves, Penguin Young Readers announced that a picture book version is set for publication in July. It will add a new letter from Kendi that outlines further questions and discussion starters for parents and caregivers. (Ages 4-8)
Christian Robinson’s illustrations appeared in such award-winning titles as "Last Stop on Market Street," for which Robinson won Caldecott and Coretta Scott King honors, before his debut solo book, "Another." His newest reassures young readers "You Matter" (Atheneum, $17.99).
"When everyone thinks you’re a pest/ when something is just out of reach/When everyone is too busy to help/you matter," he writes, building a rhythmic cascade of support for challenging scenarios.
"I want to make sure whoever picks up a book of mine feels seen, and valued, and knows that they matter," Robinson noted in an interview with the Picturebooking podcast. "But I wanted to do more than just say that they matter. I wanted to show that they mattered."
His collage illustrations showcase a wide range of experiences, from the young boy using a wheelchair while he and friends play with a multicolored playground parachute to the Black female astronaut wistfully looking through a window because "Sometimes home is far away." A series of pages that depict a dinosaur looking at an out-of-reach itchy mosquito bite on his tail and the same beast dwarfed by a herd of dinos underscores the importance of perspective. (Ages 4-8)
Zura is a little nervous about Grandparents Day. She adores her grandmother, but when "Nana Akua Goes to School" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $17.99), her classmates might not understand the traditional markings on Nana’s face.
" ‘What if someone laughs at you or acts mean?’ she asks quietly." She remembers the little boy at the park who said her Nana was scary, and the teahouse server who couldn’t stop staring.
Fortunately, Nana Akua has a solution, as Tricia Elam Walker shows us in this sweet picture book that celebrates intergenerational bonds as well as African culture.
A professor at Howard University as well as a commentator for National Public Radio and Essence Magazine, Walker explains in a foreword that she learned about the Adinkra symbols featured in the story when her own children were students at African-centered schools. Coretta Scott King-winning illustrator April Harrison brings those symbols to life, along with home and classroom scenes that radiate the warmth of Zura and her family. (Ages 4-8)