Hold Them Close: A Love Letter to Black Children

HarperCollins. Oct. 2022. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063036178.
Gr 1-4–In this love letter to black children, the author encourages them to hold on to the good things, to not look away from the bad things, and to never forget their story. Dougher’s mixed media collage includes black-and-white photographs by Jamel Shabazz, patterned paper, and paint. Together the images create the homey chaotic feel of a Brooklyn neighborhood, where both illustrator and photographer grew up. Through the illustrations, readers follow a boy and girl into their world and family, where they see the love that carries them through real life: dinner tables and school friends, family members who were incarcerated, and those who were enslaved or experienced violence. No subject is out of reach. While the verse may be too abstract for younger readers, this book is an uplifting family story as much as it is a beautifully fearless introduction to much of Black history and why learning about it is essential for understanding the modern world. Back matter gives context and depth to images and names of historical figures and victims of violence that are worked into the collage.
VERDICT This is an important book for any collection that serves older picture book readers, but especially good for classroom use.

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