Review of In Your Hands

In Your Hands
by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Brian Pinkney
Preschool, Primary    Atheneum    32 pp.
9/17    978-1-4814-6293-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6294-5    $10.99

It looks like a baby-shower book, and it is a baby-shower book — but with a difference. On pastel backgrounds amidst the soft, swirling swoops of Pinkney’s gentle lines and colors, Weatherford shares a mother’s thoughts for a new baby boy: “I cradle you as you drift to sleep. While napping, you crack a smile. I have big, bright dreams for you.” The book continues in a familiar pattern as the narrator sees the little boy, Omari, through first steps and first day of kindergarten, “scrapes and scratches,” and bedtime stories. Pinkney maintains a pastoral mood even as the mother realizes that her growing son will eventually outgrow her protection, and she asks God to be where she cannot: “I will pray that you are safe in neighborhoods beyond our own and that you feel confident when you face new challenges.” At this point, the book becomes an explicit call for the protection and recognition of the worth of African American boys: “Black lives matter. Your life matters.” The didacticism is inherent to the form and theme of the text; the interplay between the commercial design of the book and its political point is intriguingly subversive. While the book does not speak as much to young children as it does to their caregivers, the pictures of a young black boy growing to adolescence and adulthood and the power of the mother’s prayer (“I will pray that you can always hold your head up, and that you grow old and raise sons and grandsons who will be exalted for the suns that they are”) make it one that may well transcend early readings to become a book to return to as a child becomes a man.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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