Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! I already know that today’s selection is going to be one of my favorite picture books of 2020 – the author, the talented Beth Anderson, is one of my critique buddies and I saw the early drafts of this story and loved it then. As most of you know, nonfiction pb bios are near and dear to my heart…and this one is about Elizabeth Jennings who fought for the right to ride the streetcars in New York City. And guess what? This amazing author is offering a giveaway and the winner gets to choose either a copy of the book OR a Picture Book Manuscript Critique…WOW! Please make sure you leave a comment to get your entry. And then, before you go on to your other activities, check out the other wonderful books on review over at Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post.
LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights
Written by Beth Anderson
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Published by Cawkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press/Kane (January 2020)
Themes: Discrimination, Courage, Civil Rights
Synopsis: From Amazon:
“In 1854, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.
One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race–even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court–where future president Chester Arthur represented her–and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie’s case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating book.”
Why I love this book:
- Powerful text brings history alive for young readers
- I love that this little known event is brought to life – who would have imagined that 100 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, Elizabeth Jennings had already sued…and won…for the right to ride on a streetcar with white folks.
- Captivating illustrations will engage kids – and keep them turning the pages
Here are a few of the STARRED reviews:
- “Anderson’s third-person text allows readers under Lizzie’s skin… Lewis’ dappled watercolors depict the action and extend it. A two-page author’s note fleshes out the history, including mentions of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. Necessary.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review★
- “Anderson’s vivid, well-researched narrative includes dialogue that “closely follows” accounts of Jennings’ experience that appeared in newspapers at the time. Using brighter hues than his usual palette, Lewis creates a series of vibrant, expressive watercolor paintings that transports viewers back in time, while portraying characters as distinct individuals. A memorable picture book introducing a nineteenth-century defender of civil rights.” — Booklist, starred review★
- “…(T)he first victory in what would become a 100-year-long battle to end segregation on public transportation. Shimmering jewel-toned watercolors blur and delineate details in Lewis’s paintings.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
There are many activities that parents and teachers can use to help promote racial and cultural awareness – the idea is NOT to ignore the differences among people, but to EMBRACE the differences. Ignoring the differences is like saying that the art of Picasso is the same as the art of Rembrandt. We can help children observe and appreciate different shades of skin and different textures of hair.
I found the following abstract – and although it may seem dated by the year it was created, I feel it gives a true picture of how young children perceive racial differences and it offers some really concrete activities that might promote inclusivity.
Children develop their identity and attitudes through experiences with their bodies, social environments, and their cognitive developmental stages (Derman-Sparks, 1989). As these three factors interact, young children progress through certain stages of racial and cultural awareness. In this article, we’ll talk first about the stages of racial awareness. Then we’ll give you some ideas for activities that will help children accept themselves and others.
When does it start?
The foundation of self-awareness is laid when children are infants and toddlers. At these stages, children learn “what is me” and “what is not me.” Toddlers are sensitive to the feelings of the adults around them, and they begin to mimic adult behavior. By age two, children recognize and explore physical differences. They are also learning the names of colors, and they begin to apply this to skin color. Natural curiosity will lead to questions about differences.
THE PRESCHOOL YEARS (age 3 and 4). Children of this age are better at noticing differences among people. They have learned to classify, and they tend to sort based on color and size. They can’t yet deal with multiple classification, so they get confused about the names of racial groups and the actual color of their skin. They wonder why two people with different skin tones are considered part of the same racial group. Many preschool children will comment – in words or through actions – on hair texture, eye shape, and other physical characteristics. They want to know how people got their color, hair texture, and eye shape.
Children at this age believe that because other parts of their body grow and change, skin color and other physical traits could also change. Some young black children prefer white dolls over black dolls (Clark, 1963). More often than white children, they may say that they don’t like their skin color, hair texture, or another physical trait. By age four, children begin to prefer one race.
At this age, children’s thinking is limited, distorted, and inconsistent. For these reasons, it is easy for them to believe stereotypes and form pre-prejudices. In the Anti-Bias Curriculum (1989), Louise Derman-Sparks states, “The goals are to facilitate children’s awareness that their racial identity does not change, to help them understand that they are part of a large group with similar characteristics (not “different” from everyone else) and to foster their desire to be exactly who they are.”
KINDERGARTEN (age 5 and 6). Kindergartners continue to ask questions about physical differences, and they can begin to understand the explanations for these differences. They can now make distinctions between members of the same racial or cultural group. At this age, children are developing social skills and becoming more group-oriented. They enjoy exploring the culture of their friends. By age six, most children understand the concept of fair and unfair, and they often use these concepts as they try to deal with issues.
THE EARLY PRIMARY YEARS (age 7 and 8). At this age, children acquire racial constancy. They now understand that a person’s skin color will not wash off or change but will remain the same as she grows up. At this age, children can also consider multiple attributes at one time. They can now understand how one person can be a member of several different groups. For example, a person can be part of a family, a classroom, a culture, and a race.
Children can also understand feelings of shame and pride at this age, and they are aware of racism against their own group. They are able to empathize, and they are interested in learning about the world. It’s the perfect time for giving them accurate information so they grow out of “preschool” ways of thinking (York, 1991).
Now that you understand how children develop their racial and cultural awareness and identities, it’s time to encourage them to accept and celebrate their differences. We want to help all children develop a positive self-concept and feel proud of who they are – although we don’t want them to feel better than other groups, either! If this positive sense of self and others is allowed to flourish, today’s children will become adults who accept and affirm differences, identify unfair situations, and strive to eliminate racism of any sort. A first step in helping children feel positive about racial and cultural identity is reflecting diversity in their surroundings. Children notice when the only dolls there are to play with don’t look anything like them. Books and toys that reflect racial and cultural diversity serve two purposes. They not only help children of color feel good about themselves, they help all children feel positive about differences. Here are some ideas you can try.
– Remove materials and visuals that promote stereotypes.
– Display images of all the children and families in your program.
– If your group is not diverse, display images of diversity in your community or in U.S. society.
– Add toys and materials that reflect the cultures of the children and families in your group. Then expand to include materials that mirror the diversity in the world.
Activities for Preschoolers
Set out a number of nylon knee-high stockings in various shades, tan, black, white, pink, yellow, and red. Encourage children to try them on their hands and arms or their legs and feet. Ask questions to help the children increase their awareness of skin color. For example, “Can you find a stocking that is the same color as your skin?” Or “What color is that stocking you have on your arm?” Ask the children to “Try the _________ stocking. Is it lighter or darker than your own skin?” Tell the children no one’s skin color is really white, pink, yellow, or red. Emphasize that skin-color differences are interesting and desirable.
Ask parents to give you a tiny bit of hair from each child. If parents cannot do this, use photographs of different hairstyles and hair-care products for the children to use, explore, and talk about. If parents do give you the hair, paste the hair from each child on a 3″ x 5″ index card, put them in a box, and ask the children to identify each bit of hair. Talk about how hair has texture and curl. For instance, some people have fine hair while others have coarse hair. Some people have straight hair, and others have curly hair. Talk about how people have different hair colors and lengths. Take a photo of each child’s face and make a collage of different hairstyles.
Music and Dance
Ask parents to lend you recordings of music that their family enjoys. Teach the children songs and dances from different nations of the world. Children will begin to see that all people like to sing and dance, but every group has its own special ways of doing it. Talk with the children about how different music sounds: loud, soft, fast, or slow. Listen for the different instruments. Again, ask parents if they have any instruments children could listen to or try.
Activities for School-Age Children
Alike and Different (Thumbprints)
Set out white 3″ x 5″ cards, a black ink pad, a pen, and a magnifying glass. Ask the children to make prints of their thumbs by pressing them on the ink pad and then on the cards. Label each print with the child’s name. Let children use the magnifying glass to see how the prints are alike and different. Point out that everyone has patterns on the skin of their fingers and each person’s fingerprints are different from anyone else’s.
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Biles, B. (1994). Activities that promote racial and cultural awareness. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Family child care connections*, 4(3), pp. 1p;4. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
Please join me in celebrating Beth’s wonderful new book – the best way to do that is to
- Buy a copy of the book
- Review the book on Amazon/Goodreads/or other review sites
- Tell your friends about the book
- Ask your local library to purchase a copy for their shelves
Thank you for spending your precious time here – I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…and if you have a few more minutes, please hop over to Beth’s blog where I stopped by to share some thoughts, plus I’m offering a giveaway for her Mining for Heart series: The Voice of Heart.
Also, don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered in the giveaway of the winner’s choice of either a copy of LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT or a PB manuscript critique from the amazing Beth Anderson! And remember…if you share on social media, you get an extra ticket in the giveaway hat…the more you share, the more chances you’ll have!