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Review of Hands Up!

Hands Up!
by Breanna J. McDaniel; illus. by Shane W. Evans
Preschool, Primary    Dial    32 pp.    g
1/19    978-0-525-55231-4    $17.99 

In this affirmation of self-love for children of color, an exuberant brown-skinned girl recounts many situations in which she puts her “hands up”: playing peek-a-boo as a very young child, then, as she gets older, striking a fifth-position pose in ballet, offering praise in church, holding a basketball trophy aloft while being carried by teammates’ raised hands, carrying a sign at a protest march, and more. (The protagonist’s equally exuberant blue cat offers a parallel story for readers to follow.) Evans’s illustrations effectively evoke a bright mood throughout, while encouraging readers to slow down and enjoy the textures. Some of them resemble photographed burlap and knitted fabrics; others have striated paintbrush strokes and light-colored swirly patterns. In appended author’s and illustrator’s notes, this team beautifully articulates a conscious commitment to creating positive mirror books for children of color, including McDaniel’s very deliberate choice to reclaim the titular phrase from its negative associations with police encounters (“For many people, the phrase ‘hands up’ brings forward difficult emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, and fear”). A book that highlights the joys of black and brown childhood while it positions very young children as leaders and agents of change.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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