Summary: Kindergarten-Grade 4–As they did in Happy to Be Nappy (1999) and Be Boy Buzz (2002, both Hyperion), hooks and Raschka have created a verbal and visual celebration. This time the subject is skin, both what it is and, more importantly, what it is not. "The skin I'm in/is just a covering./If you want to know who I am/you have got to come inside/and open your heart way wide." While the message comes across loud and clear, the author's deft handling of language renders it gently persuasive rather than didactic. Raschka's impressionistic pictures amplify the theme as they shift from large, bold cartoons showing the outside of both white and black children, and then move to the inner patchwork of thoughts and feelings that make up "real" individuals. The illustrations will invite lengthy study, as Raschka shows the children passing through the various boxes as they reach inside to know each other and then come outside to see skin again with fresh eyes. Whether shared with a group or one-on-one, this is an excellent vehicle to initiate discussion on a sensitive and perennially important subject.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
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Classroom Implications: The poet and the artist who created Happy to be Nappy! (1999) and Be Boy Buzz (2002) take on another big identity issue with exuberant, playful imagery that will open discussion. The simple words spell out the overt message ("If you want to know who I am / you have got to come / inside"), and the pictures move from big, full-page portraits of kids with various skin colors to patchwork-style pages showing all the shifting bits and pieces inside each individual. Raschka's images, in many colors and shapes, shows everything from active children; winging birds; and a smiling snake to arms reaching out and dancing feet. The art vividly celebrates history and the realism, fun, and fantasy inside each one of us--the dreams of "all the way I imagine me." This is about skin color, but it's also about diversity within a group and within one child, and about finding the story inside the stereotype. Hazel Rochman
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