Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice
Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, Authors
Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator
Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 4, 2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes: Racial injustice, Police shooting, Racism, Prejudice, Inequality, Social Justice
Opening: “Something bad happened in our town. The news was on the TV, the radio, and the internet. The grown-ups didn’t think the kids knew about it.”
This story follows a White family and a Black family as they discuss their reactions to a recent police shooting of a Black man. Emma and Josh first hear some older kids discussing the shooting at school. And they have a lot of questions when they go home.
Emma questions her white parents about the tragedy. Emma wants to know why the police shot the man. Her parents say the shooting was “a mistake.” Her sister, Liz, says “the cops shot him because he was Black.” This leads them to a discussion about racism, inequality, slavery and prejudice.
Josh is Black and wants to know if the White policeman can go to jail? It gives his family the chance to have an open discussion about the shooting, racial profiling, inequality and the unique issues for African American families. They inspire him with stories about Black leaders who stood up for people treated unfairly.
When Emma and Josh return to school, there is a new boy in their classroom. His name is Omad. At recess none of the kids want to include Omad in a soccer game because he is different. But Emma and Josh remember their discussions with their parents and take action.
Why I like this book:
Kudos to the authors for writing this timely and compelling book for children about a difficult topic — police shootings. I also like the fact that both Emma and Josh have older siblings who speak their minds. The book narrative and language is age-appropriate and encourages questions and thoughtful discussions. The illustrations are expressive, colorful and capture the tension in the story. I hope that Something Happened in Our Town receives a lot of book love because it is a powerful and relevant resource for classrooms. The positive resolution empowers kids to make an effort to connect with kids who may be ignored and make a difference in their communities.
Resources: The book is a wonderful resource for parents and teachers. There is a Note to Parents and Caregivers at the end that provides general guidance about addressing racism with children, child-friendly vocabulary definitions, conversation guides, and a link to additional online resources for parents and teachers. In addition to modeling conversations about race, this book provides messages of acceptance, empowerment and positive community support.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.