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
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.
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.
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 bold. While 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:
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:
My favourite image is this one:
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.