February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg | SLJ Review

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redstarGRAGG, Sanya Whittaker. Momma, Did You Hear the News? illus. by Kim Holt. 32p. Amazon/CreateSpace. Apr. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781542332538.

Gr 1-5–In an empathetic picture book portraying “The Talk” had by many African American families, two young boys, fearful after hearing news about black boys their age being killed by police, come to their parents for reassurance. The loving, concerned parents initiate a conversation about staying safe when interacting with police. The dialogue includes a mnemonic device for the children to memorize (“A to the L to the I-V-E/Come home ALIVE/That is the key!”). Much of the text guides readers through the rhyme: “ALWAYS USE YOUR MANNERS,” “LISTEN AND COMPLY,” “IN CONTROL of your emotions,” “VISIBLE HANDS ALWAYS,” and “EXPLAIN everything as you do it.” Fear, anger, sadness, and tenderness show strongly in characters’ faces and body language. Both parents touch and embrace their sons throughout the exchange, demonstrating closeness and protection that may comfort young children who are faced with this reality. The parents express empathy for police officers (“They’re Moms and Daddies too. They want to get home safe at night”) before returning focus to the children (“We love you both so much, our sons”). This warm, compassionate book will be invaluable for a parent approaching The Talk (the mother, at first, doesn’t “know what to say,” which may resonate with readers who feel similarly), and could serve as a conversation starter even for families whose advice differs from what’s here. VERDICT Essential both for its counsel and for its representation of a family confronting police brutality with young children. Highly recommended.–Amy Martin, Oakland Public Library, CA

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