The Talk

S. & S./Atheneum. Oct. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534495296.
K-Gr 2–Jay and his friends love to race each other and be kids; when the marks on the wall show that Jay, who is African American, has grown a couple of inches, his mother looks on sadly because the world won’t see him as a little boy anymore. When he and his friends hang out together, some people aren’t happy about it. Jay’s grandpa warns them not to crowd in groups of more than four because people may think they’re troublemakers. As Jay grows into a young man, his parents continue to warn him about how to behave in public and what to do when stopped by the police. Before Jay leaves the house in a black hoodie with the hood up, his family sits him down for “the talk.” Though it’s not an easy conversation, Jay’s family reminds him that whatever happens is never his fault and that he is surrounded and supported by his family. This picture book is an excellent portrayal of the difficult conversations many Black and brown families have with their children to keep them safe. Powerful illustrations capture every stage of Jay’s growth from fun-loving kid to young man. There is a wordless spread depicting instances of racial profiling and injustice that allows readers and their adults to have a self-guided discussion about the images and the feelings they evoke.
VERDICT This powerful picture book about race, family, and growing up is an essential purchase for every library’s collection, putting words to an impossible and necessary conversation, and giving children whose families don’t have “the talk” a window for understanding and an opportunity for compassion and change.

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