Tonight was our turn on the #blogtour for the picture book When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke.
The Black Lives Matter movement has risen to prominence globally following a number of tragic events of the last couple of years, and now we have a book that does great work to introduce the real meaning of the phrase and the reason that it is, sadly, a necessity in today’s world. Inside the striking cover we found a beautiful, lyrical text full of rhythm and soul. There are spreads which celebrate black culture and others which show, powerfully, why the Black Lives Matter movement was and still is needed.
Whilst pulling no punches, there is also no blame within the spreads of this book. Instead, Maxine has created a message of hope, power and activism that will no doubt ignite a spark in many young readers. And this is the beauty of this book – its understanding of the power of youth and children to be the drivers of continued progress and change. The teacher is me also loves the powerful repetition of ‘we’ and the impact that this could have in involving the reader and helping them to see themselves within these pages.
The illustrations are as powerful as the text, with a mixture of block, bright colours creating a feeling of vibrancy and a darker palette used to convey the deeper emotions contained within this book and the history that it explores. There are a number of spreads which have an immediate impact, like this one which I have returned to contemplate a number of times since finishing the book…
This is a book for everybody because of the understanding that it can support and the importance of the message at its heart. It is also a book which will really resonate with children who may well see themselves, their families and their history inside the covers of this book. As schools work ever harder on developing a diverse reading offer with representation for all, this book feels like one that belongs in their offer. A wonderful, simple explanation, a hugely important message and a great way to foster empathy and understanding. Go check it out.
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