By Uche Okonkwo
A few weeks ago I realized, to my dismay, that I’d had my local library card for well over a year but had never stepped into the library building—well, besides the day I actually got the card. I decided it was time to pay the library a visit. During my visit I signed up to become a Friend of the Library, made a small donation, and came away with five very different picture books for children. (Holiday gift ideas, anyone?)
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang
Baby Billy was born…well, slightly odd—he was born with a mustache. Now his family has to “wait and see whether it is a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache.” This book was an absolute delight to read, with quirky illustrations and fun puns.
I Have Two Homes by Marian De Smet and Nynke Talsma
Nina lives in two homes, because her mom and dad are divorced. This book addresses the subject of divorce with honesty and a profound simplicity. Through Nina’s eyes, the reader feels the pain of separation both for parents and children, even as Nina comes to terms with her new reality.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
A beauty to behold, this book tells the story of Sulwe, a young black girl with “skin the colour of midnight.” Sulwe has one prayer: to be “beautiful and bright” like her mother and sister who have lighter skin. Sulwe, whose name means star, has an encounter with a real-life shooting star, who teaches her to see the beauty in herself.
The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro
This book is based on the true story of a town in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943. In The Whispering Town, Anett, his family, and the people of his town, work together to hide and protect Jewish friends and neighbours, and ultimately help them escape to safety.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller
If you’re constantly having to fend off unwanted hands and fingers from your hair, you’ll relate with Aria, the protagonist of this book. Aria, a young black girl, loves her soft bouncy hair and how it “grows up toward the sun like a flower.” But it’s not so much fun when people try to touch her hair without asking first.
Uche Okonkwo is currently a third year MFA Fiction candidate at Virginia Tech. Her stories have been published in Ploughshares, One Story, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019.