[Poetry Friday] The Playful Poetry in “The Skin You Live In”

poetry friday

Myra here.

I am glad to be joining the Poetry Friday community this week with a picturebook that is in keeping with our current reading theme on the Universal Republic of Childhood

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For Nonfiction Wednesday this week, I shared Julius Lester’s Let’s Talk About Race and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, I thought I better follow it through with the playful poetry in this finely-crafted multicultural picturebook that embraces the world within us. Poetry Friday is hosted this week by the beautiful Carol Varsalona of Beyond Literacy.

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The Skin You Live In

Written by: Michael Tyler Illustrations by: David Lee Csicsko
Published by: Chicago Children’s Museum, 2005 ISBN: 0975958003 (ISBN13: 9780975958001)
Borrowed a copy from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

When I told my librarian friend about the research project I am heading on the use of multicultural children’s literature to promote social and emotional learning, this was the first book that he thrust into my hands along with Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are – and I can see why.

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Told in rhyming, delicious text – matched with colourful illustrations that would undoubtedly appeal to children – this is a book that celebrates all kinds of skin – from butterscotch gold to lemon tart boldWhile the text may seem simple, I can tell that distilling this message in playful poetry is anything but. The art also adds to the text by introducing images such as the one found below, signifying the many permutations of colours, race, skin:

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Yet it doesn’t just stop with feel-gold messages about one’s pumpkin pie slice skin or toffee wrapped, ginger snapped, cinnamon spice skin (I am getting famished here) – it also invites the young reader to consider the many ways that children may exclude another, possibly because of size, wealth, height, or for just about any other reason:

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My favourite image is this one:

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It is a beautiful book that embraces all – in a few playful words that can be unpacked further by a thoughtful parent or a smart teacher. For teachers who may wish to use this book, here is a downloadable PDF link that contains a few suggested discussion questions and classroom activities.

The celebratory message is simple:

It’s not any of this,

’cause you’re more

than you seem.

You are all that you think and

you hope and you dream.

How would you describe the skin that you live in? Is it apple pie rhubarb with a touch of rum? Or coffee-flavoured cheesecake with mocha topping?

  1. My skin is bruise-easy peach skin!

    Love this book! I know the Mem Fox, but I’m off to reserve this one at the library!

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  2. I think I have strawberry splatter biscuit skin. Although I’ve been known to refer to my shins in spring as dead-fish-belly white. I’m getting kinder to myself as I get older. I love the descriptions in this book. I’m going to order it from the library, too! 🙂

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  3. Hadn’t heard of this one. Will look for it at my library too. Thanks for featuring it!

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  4. How delicious. (I can just imagine the treats Jama will cook up for us, inspired by this!) I think I have golden syrup dumpling skin… I’m off to google, and see if this is even available here! 🙂

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  5. What a warm and loving book! My skin is probably coconut macaron.

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  6. Linda Mitchell June 11, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    How fun! And, how lovely.
    My arms are peach cobbler….but my paler legs are macadamia biscotti!

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  7. What an interesting idea–to combine skin types with all these foods. Very fun and warm! I fear my skin becoming not quite dried apple, but more dried pear skin.

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  8. Looks like a wonderful diverse book for the classroom. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. It is interesting to refer to skin tone in flavors to promote positivity in perspective. What if the world was filled with the appreciation of all the colors of the rainbow. Thanks Myra for always bringing interesting books to our attention.

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