A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anastasia Higgenbotham's Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is part of Dottir Press' Ordinary Terrible Things series. It's a powerful picture book that explains in a clear, simple, easy-to-understand way what White supremacy is and how it's been used to oppress Black people in the United States for more than 400 years. It also shows the folly of a White parent trying to keep this reality from her kid and insist that "We don't see color." The main character takes the initiative to go to the library and get informed about U.S. history. Abundant positive messages throughout encourage kids (and grown-ups) to be anti-racist and to stand up for what's right. "Racial justice is possible. But only if we're honest with each other and ourselves." There are references to the police shooting of an African American and an archival photo of a police officer during a civil rights-era protest with a snarling, menacing police dog. This is great book to spark informed discussions of race, racism, and police violence against people of color. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness was named one of School Library Journal's Best Books of 2018.
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What's the story?
NOT MY IDEA: A BOOK ABOUT WHITENESS begins with images of a police shooting of a Black person on a TV and a little white girl asking her mom about what happed. Mom doesn't want to talk about it, reinforcing what she thinks is a positive family value: "We don't see color." But the girl knows that color matters in how a person is treated. She goes to the library to do research to get more informed about the issue of race in the United States and learns about slavery and the abolitionist and civil rights movements, right up through NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling to protest racial injustice. She also learns about the notion of white supremacy and the reality of white privilege and realizes that white supremacy isn't her idea, so she doesn't have to defend it. "I know what that police officer did was wrong!" she yells at her mom. She learns that "Racial justice is possible. But only if we're honest with each other and ourselves."
Is it any good?
This powerful book offers a clear, simple, kid-friendly explanation of white supremacy, white privilege, and the need for families to talk honestly about race to work for racial justice. The mixed-media art effectively uses archival news and magazine pictures in collages pasted on pieces of a brown paper bag to tell the story of the struggle for civil rights and the ongoing issue of police brutality and police shootings of African Americans. There's a vitality and rawness to the illustrations that gives the book immediacy. And having the focus on the little girl's feelings and her quest for knowledge and understanding (then schooling her mom) makes it empowering.
Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness is packed with information and context but avoids being preachy, except to encourage kids to do the right thing and stand up for what's right. It also encourages going to the library to find answers to your burning questions! The book would be an excellent jumping-off point for a family discussion of racism, protests, and police violence.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about "seeing color" in Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. How come the little girl knows that people are treated differently because of their skin color, but her mom seems not to? Why is it important to talk about how attitudes about race can be harmful?
How do you feel when you see protests on the TV/in the news? Do you understand what's going on? How could you find out more?
Have you ever participated in a protest or demonstration? What was it about? Is the right to protest part of living in a democracy? Does calling out injustice help bring about positive change?
- Author: Anastasia Higginbotham
- Illustrator: Anastasia Higginbotham
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Activism, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Dottir Prress
- Publication date: September 24, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 64
- Available on: Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: June 10, 2020
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