We Can Say No

Free Spirit. (We Say What's Okay). Oct. 2022. 36p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781631987120.
Gr 1-4–Bowers tackles a sensitive topic, that of consent, in a very considerate way, making it understandable for kids who stand to benefit the most from reading this book. Zakiya is a young Black girl who enjoys listening to stories read by the white librarian in her class. However, the librarian always touches her hair without asking, and Zakiya wonders if she’s weird for minding until a classmate, Sami, mentions the same problem. The girls wonder if they should say anything, because they enjoy story time and don’t want to upset the librarian. A teacher catches wind of the girls’ discussion and explains that personal autonomy comes before another person’s feelings. In the end, with their newfound understanding of their personal space, the girls tackle the situation together. Bodily autonomy is such an important topic to bring up to kids as early as they can understand it, and Bowers creates a tactful, accessible forum with this story. Additional bonus points for Bowers’s tackling of the treatment of people with disabilities as well in the case of the teacher and his experiences with people in his personal space—they touch his chair—too.
VERDICT This book should be in every classroom as an icebreaker, relieving children of the need to introduce the topic themselves, and a definite addition to any library; it’s a well-handled approach to a very important topic.

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