I am honored to be included in “Here Wee Read.” A group of book reviewers and bloggers focusing on diverse books, mostly children’s. I love so much the very idea of this group and hope to do them proud. So, this is the place where I have to tell you that in exchange for a free book, I have agreed to give this book an honest review. No other payment was received and I am under no obligation to be positive in this–or any other book I review.
Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg, MSW, illustrated by Kim Holt
Books teach children many lessons. Seuss teaches how to have fun with language, how to twist letters and sounds and create something new. Sendak teaches that your imagination can save you and make you royalty with Wild Things. Tullet teaches that books are magic.
Sanya Whittaker Gragg’s “Momma, Did You Hear the News?” teaches its own very important lesson, not as whimsical or metaphorical and much more heartrending and just as valuable. How to survive an interaction with a police officer.
Like Gragg herself, I too am sad that a book on this topic is even necessary, but like Active Shooter Drills in our elementary school, this is the world we (and unfortunately–heartbreakingly so–our children) live in. Pretending it’s not is not going to make it better.
The story tells of two boys who come home with news of another police shooting and they are afraid. They worry that because the boy who was shot looks like them and wears what they were, eats the candy they like, that it could happen to them too. The father sits them down to have “The Talk” that his own mother had given to him as a child. A mantra to keep him safe when dealing with the police.
A to the
L to the
Come home ALIVE
That is the key!
Believe me, the mantra is incredibly catchy, I was reciting it in my head as I was doing other things for DAYS and DAYS after. It’s good that it’s catchy, it’s good that it’s something that you’re going to remember for long after you read it, because each letter means something truly important for all people and races.
Always Use Your Manners (be respectful and don’t talk back)
Listen and Comply (do exactly as you’re told)
In Control (don’t let your fear, anger or any other emotion cloud your judgement)
Visible Hands Always (at the 10 and 2 if behind the wheel)
Explain Everything (Explain every move you’re going to make so the officer knows what your intentions are)
The boys are justifiably angry that this is happening to boys like them, and you can feel that and their confusion. The parents fear seeps off the page as if you are there in the house as they worry and fret. The family feels very real, the situation very current. What I particularly liked was with the highlighting the mantra being passed down from generation to generation that this isn’t a current phenomenon at all, This family–and ones like it–have ALWAYS had these fears, this confused and justifiably angry feelings. Just because the subject of racial profiling and police brutality is only know reaching the consciousness of America as a whole doesn’t mean it’s only just begun.
Another thing that I really admire this story for, is it’s insistence that police are not the bad guys. There are bad cops, like there are bad people in a lot of other fields, but most cops are there to do what they swore an oath to do, protect and serve. They want to get home safe to their families too; they strive to do what is right. So, to make their jobs easier, and to not anger the bad cops in their ranks, it’s best to remember the mantra.
I feel, and I think this book backs me up, that this applies no matter what your sex, no matter what your race. It’s all just really sound advice, told with fairness, understanding and love. I highly recommend it to anyone, though I do suggest that it is read to a child and that the adult reading it be prepared to talk about it after. I”d also suggest they read it a few times before sharing it with a child so that your own fear and heartbreak doesn’t seep into the reading and make it hard to get through.
It’s a hard lesson to teach, a hard subject to approach, but so, so important.
- Age Range: 4 – 8 year
- Grade Level: Preschool – 3
- Paperback: 32 pages
- Where to buy: On Amazon 9.99 on Paperback; 5.99 for Kindle
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