Race & Gender
Race: Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli & Isabel Roxas
Gender: Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli & Anne/Andy Passchier
As a former classroom teacher whose strongest desire is to topple the Patriarchy with their bare hands, getting my mitts on the new release Being You: A First Conversation About Gender is like a dream come true. I’m thrilled to be reviewing both Being You and the previously released Our Skin today, both of which are absolutely essential to every single bookshelf on the planet.
Being You is a book that addresses a lot of the first messages that we receive about gender as a child, supplying terminology for body parts and interactive questions for the readers/listeners to facilitate discussions with. I love that as a board book, the text is thorough and touches on many aspects of childhood and figuring out who you are. Being You is fantastic for a wide age range, and I’m enamored with the additional information in the back.
The illustrations by Passchier (who also illustrated another favorite What Are Your Words?) are adorable and diverse, showing multiple pronouns, a prosthetic limb, all sorts of creative dressing, and all with the underlying message that it’s ok to change your mind if you decide that a pronoun or style of dress isn’t right for you anymore. It brings in activism, patriarchy, and feeling at home in your own body; advocacy for yourself and others is underlying this informational and beautiful text.
The “Continue the Conversation” topics after the story are perfect for assisting caregivers who might be unfamiliar with the topics addressed. I can’t say enough good about this book, but let’s get onto heaping praise on the first book in this series, Our Skin!
With any luck, you’ve seen Our Skin in newsfeeds and bookshop shelves since its explosive release in March of this year. We deeply need books that explain the nuance of skin, race, and racism to young children; they are absolutely not immune to noticing the differences of others, and in fact that’s an extremely toxic color blind way to go about (and ignore talking about) issues that plague our society such as racism and eugenics.
I love the structure of the book. It provides information and structure to scaffold learning for kids beautifully. It explains why everyone has different and equally beautiful and unique skin tones, and that melanin makes skin have color.
The book truly shines when it explains all of the nuanced ways racism can show up: as an idea, as a mistake, a game rule, or on purpose. This helps to show several huge ideas that many of us [mainly white people] may not learn until we’re adults.
Trusting kids to understand the complexity of the ideas that racism might not be intentional, but always extremely harmful. It encourages kids to learn how they can engage in social justice for racial equality, and has brilliant further conversation information and prompts in the back of the book as well.
Both of these books were sent by Penguin Kids, but all opinions are my own! Being You will be released on August 17th.
Megan Pamela Ruth Madison (she, her) is an early childhood educator, scholar, and activist based in New York City. She began her career working as an assistant in a Waldorf elementary school. After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, Megan then went on to become a teacher in a Head Start preschool classroom. Now, as a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, she works part-time facilitating workshops for teachers and families on race, gender and sexuality. Megan is currently working on a board book series with co-author Jessica Ralli for Rise x Penguin Workshop on race, gender, consent and body positivity.
Megan recently completed a term on the governing board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (or NAEYC) after several years serving as a co-facilitator of the association’s Diversity & Equity Interest Forum. In that role, she worked to organize early childhood professionals around the country who are passionate about social justice. She is proud to hold a master’s degree in early childhood education from Dominican University.
Megan lives in Harlem (unceded land of the Lenape people*), where she loves reading, eating ice cream, and building community with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (or JFREJ).
Jessica Ralli is an educator and writer, and is currently the Coordinator of early literacy programs at Brooklyn Public Library where she develops and manages creative initiatives for children 0-5. She received her M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, specializing in play-based, emergent and integrated curriculum development for infants and toddlers. She has written about early literacy for School Library Journal, Library Trends, and the BKLYN Kids Blog. Jessica has presented on early literacy and play-based learning at the American Library Association Conference, Young Child Expo, Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature, Urban Librarians Conference and at other professional forums.
In 2020, Jessica won the notable Library Journal “Movers and Shakers” award for her advocacy work in libraries. Jessica is currently working on a board book series with co-author Megan Madison for Rise x Penguin Workshop on race, gender, consent and body positivity. She has taught in schools, museums and libraries, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. When not coordinating, Jessica can usually be found making things out of recycled materials with her kids and endlessly organizing stuff into colorful bins.
Isabel Roxas is an author/illustrator, indie publisher, ceramicist and avid reader.She was born in Manila, Philippines, was raised on luscious mangoes, old wives’ tales, and monsoon moons. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and graduated with a Masters in Communications Design from Pratt Institute. She is now based in NYC where she writes and illustrates stories, designs books, bakes delicious things and creates small objects out of clay and resin.Isabel has illustrated several books for young readers, including Our Skin by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli, Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê (named an NPR Best Book of 2016) and Day at the Market by May Tobias-Papa (2010 winner of the Philippine National Book Award).
Isabel is a frequent contributor to Babybug and Ladybug magazine as well as the free Sunday comic newsletter SundayHaHa.Her debut comic book for young readers, The Adventures of Team Pom: SQUID HAPPENS is out in the wild starting June 8th, 2021.Isabel is a member of The Society of Illustrators, SCBWI and Ang INK (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan).She also publishes artist books and zines for children under the imprint Little Big Time Press.
Anne Passchier (also known as Andy) is an illustrator and surface designer from The Netherlands, currently living in the USA. They like drawing, cats, videogames, Dungeons & Dragons, shows about aliens, and anything spooky or Halloween-related.
Anne is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. Non-binary means they’re not a boy or a girl. When referring to them, you can say “they’re an illustrator”, and use gender neutral words like person, partner, or sibling rather than man/woman, boyfriend/girlfriend, or brother/sister. They also create online comics about their experiences as a non-binary person under the pseudonym Andyrogyny.