Hey Black Child

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Hey Black Child Book Poster Image
Motivational poem brought to life in full color.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The book teaches positive self-esteem and empowerment to young students through high-impact, easy-to-remember rhymes.

Positive Messages

The entire book is a poem designed to bolster the self-esteem of children, especially children of color. Its message of boundless opportunities and the potential of children is displayed on every page. "Do you know you can do what you want to do if you try to do what you can do?"

Positive Role Models & Representations

While there is no central character, the illustrations in the book provide positive images and representation of the ideas expressed in the book, showing strength, learning, and achievement.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hey Black Child is the illustrated version of the popular poem of the same name by Useni Eugene Perkins that celebrates children and their potential. Originally written in 1974 as a song for a play, it was then adapted to a poem, and in 2015, videos of children reciting it went viral on YouTube and gained exposure on television, including on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The book is dazzlingly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Bryan Collier (Rosa). Parents should be prepared to discuss self-esteem and pride with children.

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What's the story?

In HEY BLACK CHILD, poet Useni Eugene Perkins proclaims all the reasons children -- and black children in particular -- should be proud of who they are and believe in what they can achieve. With lines like "Do you know you can be what you want to be if you try to be what you can be?" Perkins talks about what kids can be, can learn, and can do. What will you want to be?

Is it any good?

This beautifully illustrated book adds a visual dimension to the popular poem of the same name and underscores its powerful message. With its optimism and motivation, the poem "Hey Black Child" went viral for many reasons, including its appeal to kids, who recite it with all of the joy and rhythm the poem evokes. Poet Useni Eugene Perkins bolsters the self-esteem and imagination of students and parents alike. And illustrator Bryan Collier's art is a delight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the visual impact of Hey Black Child. What cool art elements do you see in the book? How do they fit in with the poem? 

  • Why do you think the videos featuring children reciting the poem "Hey Black Child" went viral? What makes those videos important?

  • How does the poem make you feel?  What's your favorite part?

Book details

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