You So Black (Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You So Black, written by Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. and illustrated by London Ladd, a glorious celebration of black beauty and pride.

The phrase “you so black” is often used to open a taunt or insult, but what is insulting about having black skin? What is insulting about carrying a cultural history, a family history, in glowing features or in a crown of textured hair? Black is beautiful, strong, brilliant, graceful, and so much more. Black is power, possibility, and promise. Simply put, black skin is nothing to be ashamed of; it shines, as it holds such luminous beings within it.

Beautiful. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.’s original poem, a powerful reclamation of a phrase typically as a racist and colorist disparagement, translates perfectly to picture book form, with short and lyrical statements that read with conviction and certainty. Paired with Ladd’s explosively expressive art, the final product is a book that assertively assures young black readers of their value. Notably, Ladd’s illustrations focus almost exclusively on characters whose skin lies on the darker end of the skintone spectrum, a heartwarming thing to see when so many children’s books with characters of color still lean heavily toward light-skinned representation. One note: God – capital G – is mentioned twice in the poem as being tied to blackness, something to think about for non-religious readers going in. Otherwise, the length is perfect, this was a joy to read aloud, and JJ loved the beautiful artwork. A must-read for young black bookworms, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Waiting For Pumpsie (Barry Wittenstein)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Waiting For Pumpsie, written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by London Ladd, an uplifting story about the integration of the Boston Red Sox.

In 1959, the Red Sox are the only Major League Baseball team not to have integrated, twelve years after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers. To Bernard, a young black boy from Roxbury and a die-hard Red Sox fan, this is mystifying. He knows what he reads in the papers (that the owners don’t want a black man on their team), and from his family’s yearly game at Fenway (where they are treated with contempt and open racism despite being fellow fans). “Change is coming real soon,” advises his mother, and sure enough, there’s talk of a talented minor-leaguer named Pumpsie Green. He looks sure to make the roster, but the owners hold him back at the last moment, claiming he’s “not ready”. However, after fan protests and a drop to last place, Pumpsie is brought up to the big leagues. Bernard and his family are overjoyed – but will the team truly give Pumpsie his opportunity to shine?

Powerful. Following Green’s integration through the eyes of one of his young fans, the tone and language of the text deftly strikes a delicate balance between reality and hope. Era-typical vernacular is used, including terms like “colored” and “negro”, used both as slurs but also generic terms (Bernard refers to his family and Pumpsie as “colored”, for instance); it’s jarring and uncomfortable, as it should be, and sets the stage for both Pumpsie and Bernard’s triumph of spirit at the end. Bernard and his entire family are heartwarmingly endearing characters, especially his fierce, hopeful mother and sage and kind father. Ladd’s gorgeous illustrations capture every scene of joy, anger, sadness, and pride. It’s a bit on the longer side, and the content is for the more mature bookworm, but JJ and I loved it. This is a moving tale about the importance of diversity, and how it can change lives in the biggest and smallest of ways. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this books was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)