Stand Up! with Anastasia Higginbotham at CPL

On Saturday, February 23, author Anastasia Higginbotham was the special guest at the Cambridge Public Library's Stand Up! Storytime for Social Justice event organized by children's librarian and Friend of the Horn Book Hillary Saxton. Higginbotham is the author of the Ordinary Terrible Things picture book series, including Death Is Stupid, Divorce Is the Worst, and Tell Me About Sex, Grandma. Her most recent entry is Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, which she introduced and read aloud to the group ("This is the best-attended library event I've had!").

The book follows a little girl who is white in the aftermath of a police shooting of an unarmed African American young man. While the girl's mother insists, "Our family is kind to everyone. We don't see color," the story shows the ways that institutionalized racism and white privilege are pervasive in society.

Higginbotham wrote the book partly so "children would understand there is a system in place, so they can learn to recognize it, and connect that with their own instincts [brief pause to ask the group if they know what "instincts" are then help define in a kid-friendly way] around justice." A three-dimensional cutout of kneeling Colin Kaepernick (hand-drawn) served as a visual reminder that "racism didn't end," and in order to fight it, we must actively work to "undercut white supremacy."

She also talked about her book-making process. In addition to recycled materials (e.g., "magazines from other people's bins"), she uses brown-paper grocery bags because they are "tough" and "beautiful" and they connote "nourishment." She wants children who see her books to know what they're made of and to "look like something they could make." She provided craft materials — different-color paper, markers, crayons — to engage the littlest ones in the group. Porter Square Books sold copies of Not My Idea, one of which she very kindly signed for my visiting nephew — who was eager to share it with his own teacher at school and continue the conversation.

For more on social justice and activism from The Horn Book, click on the tag Making a Difference.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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