Friday, January 31, 2014

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester (Illustrated by Karen Barbour)

Published in 2005

Julius Lester's book Let's Talk About Race is a beautifully illustrated book that gets to the heart of an important issue that is often difficult to talk about: race. Lester handles the topic with sensitivity and speaks on a level that easily relates to children. Karen Barbour uses vibrant colors that are visually appealing and eye-catching for the cover and illustrations. The pages are colorful and smooth to the touch, very inviting. 

Lester begins his story by making it personal. The first thing you read when you open the cover are the words, "I am a story. So are you. So is everyone." Who can argue with this statement? We all have a story. We all have a time when we were born and a place where we were born. We all have parents, brothers, and sisters or other family members. Lester then tells his story and asks his readers to tell their stories. He draws in his audience by making his book relevant to them by asking, how does your story begin? He brings the topic of race down to a child's level. He says that all our stories have many of the same elements, such as our favorite foods, hobbies, colors, religions, nationalities, and our favorite time of day. 

After explaining what we all have in common, Lester makes the transition to race. He questions his readers about race and then questions whether what they think about race is true. The most powerful point Lester makes and the climax of the story is when he encourages his readers to discover what is beneath their skin. If we all took off our hair, our clothes, and our skin, we would discover that we all have one thing in common: a skeleton. We are all alike in this way: we all have bones.

Lester's book would be a safe way to discuss the issue of race with children.


  1. I agree that race is often a difficult topic to discuss, and I like how the illustrator depicts many races in his book! I've not read a book like this before, so I'm glad to have been introduced to it!

  2. I'm glad you included a link to other books by Julian Lester, because I was curious about his background and whether he had explored the topic of race in other books. Reading more about him helped me to understand why this topic is so important to him- three of his great-grandparents were slaves. I also thought it was interesting that in one article he said he was not a good writer and never intended to write books, but he obviously had these personal views and stories he needed to share with the world. I think some of my students could relate to that. Thanks for the post!

  3. I enjoyed how your post got right to the point without too much fluff! Your synopsis was accurate and enjoyable. I have not read this book yet but I look forward to it. Based on your review, I believe this would be a great book for my second graders. It sounds like a positive book for discussing such a sensitive and controversial topic.