A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Presents a myth about how days became divided into day and night. Readers can compare that myth with any legends they've learned in their culture, and with the scientific view of Earth's rotation. Also introduces kids to idea that some people get treated differently because of the lightness or darkness of their skin, even within a country or community of dark-skinned people.
"Brightness is not in your skin ... Brightness is just who you are." "Real beauty comes from your mind and your heart. It begins with how you see yourself, not how others see you." From the author's note: "What is on the outside is only one part of being beautiful. Yes, it is important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror, but what is even more important is working to be beautiful inside. That means being kind to yourself and others. That is the beauty that shines through." "Don't wait for anyone to tell you what is beautiful. Know that you are beautiful because you choose to be. Know that you always were and always can be."
Positive Role Models
Sulwe struggles with accepting who she is and appreciating how she looks, but in the end she does. Her mother gives her love and support, tells her she's beautiful, helps Sulwe to feel beautiful inside and out.
The story says "people give Sulwe names like 'Blackie,' 'Darky,' and 'Night.'" But there are no instances of anyone calling her these or any other names in dialogue.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sulwe is the first picture book by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o. It tells the story of a little girl who "was born the color of midnight" and feels she's treated differently than her lighter-skinned friends and family members because of it. The tale takes a magical turn when a star comes in her bedroom and takes her on a journey explaining the mythological origins of Day and Night -- who are sisters. After learning about the value and beauty of the dark night, she can embrace her dark skin, and feels "beautiful inside and out!" In an author's note at the end, Nyong'o, who was raised in Kenya, explains how she drew on her own experience to write this book: "Much like Sulwe, I got teased and taunted about my night-shade skin. ... Yes, it is important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror, but what is even more important is working to be beautiful inside." The book was also named a 2020 Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honor Book for Vashti Harrison's illustrations.
Is It Any Good?
This empowering story of a girl who's feeling left out because of her looks uses myth and fantasy to teach a lesson about accepting who you are and discovering your own beauty. Lupita Nyong'o's story is gentle and engaging, and Vashti Harrison's dazzling art shows a wide range of emotions (Sulwe's big eyes convey a lot), with wonderful contrasts of radiant sunny gold and dark brown, black, blue, and purple. Sulwe is a warm and personal exploration of a topic rarely discussed in children's literature.
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Our Editors Recommend
Picture Books with Truly Amazing Illustrations
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