Last year I loved having a project to follow all through the year – checking in each month with details of our family hikes was so much fun – and I’ve decided that 2016 calls for another long-term blogging project. Since this is the year that I’m working on expanding my reading horizons and reading more diverse books, I thought it would be a natural fit to talk about some of the diverse books I’m also reading with my kids. I believe that no age is too young to talk about the wonderful differences between all the people that make our world so magnificent. So each month, I plan to feature a different children’s book celebrating diversity in its many forms. I’ll showcase books that talk about racial diversity, religious and cultural differences, feminism and more. I hope that my readers like this feature. Comments and book recommendations are welcome, of course, but – as always! – let’s keep the chat respectful. Now, enough chatter – January’s diverse kidlit title is…
Two Friends, by Dean Robbins
Based on a true story of the friendship between Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, Two Friends imagines these two pioneers of justice sitting down together for tea in Susan’s parlor on a snowy evening in Rochester, New York. The book begins by describing the obstacles that both Anthony and Douglass faced – in Anthony’s case, because of her sex, and in Douglass’s case, because of the color of his skin.
Young Susan grows up wanting to learn everything that boys can learn, but she is not allowed to – because she’s a girl.
Young Frederick, born into slavery, teaches himself to read and begins to question why he should be denied rights that others enjoy.
Frederick and Susan grow up and begin to speak out, exposing the fallacies of a system that suborns people based on their sex or race. While some people liked hearing what Susan and Frederick had to say, as Two Friends (simply and starkly) puts it, “others didn’t.”
Two Friends pictures Susan and Frederick – who really were friends – sitting down together to discuss their plans to change minds and raise awareness of issues of inequality and injustice…
As soon as they finish their tea.
Two Friends is a gorgeous book. The illustrations are eye-catching and beautiful, and the text provides a wonderful introduction to important debates we have had throughout our history – while it does not sugar-coat the issues of injustice, it is simple enough for very young children to understand. Older children will almost certainly have some questions about the text – why couldn’t Susan learn what boys learned? why couldn’t Frederick vote? – and those questions will open the door for parents to begin explaining important issues in ways that children can understand.
What books do you use to introduce your children to difficult concepts?