Author: Mary Hoffman
Illustrator: Caroline Binch
Dialect: Mainstream American English
Dialect: Mainstream American English
Includes culturally (a combo of ethnicity and region) based family names like “Nana” and “Ma.” There are also names from the Gambian characters like “Jatou” and “Neneh” and “Bakary.” About twice in the story you will here a word “”benachin” which is a culinary dish eaten by some people in Gambia.
Main character: Young/School-age Black girl
People images: Positive diverse images of people from Africa, specifically, The Gambia, and people who are African American.
Background images: Positive images of life living in The Gambia, a country in Africa. Shows people shopping, some images of the homes in The Gambia, and the clothing, both traditional and modern clothing.
Nonmainstream features include: talk about step families, mother and father not living together, Black family, cross-cultural differences between Gambian family and Black American family
My favorite part of this book is the beautiful images of the people. I absolutely love the way Binch draws Black people.
It’s like you could pick the “real” Grace out of a crowd of people if you had to because Binch’s characters look so real. She is so detailed in the way the way Grace wears her hair, from little afro puffs to twists sticking up all over her head. It reminds me of me when I was a little girl, or of when I went to bed last night.
I also love the complexion and skin tones of the people that Binch draws. Really being able to see darker skinned Black people in a positive light is something that all children need to become accustomed to.
Okay, and now I have to be completely honest, I’m not sure if the author means to portray Grace as an American or a girl from the United Kingdom. The reason that I’m even having this conundrum is because I Google way too much and I saw that both the author and illustrator are based in the UK. So, of course my brain starts to think that maybe Grace is actually British?? I’m not sure. And to be honest, for the most part, it really doesn’t matter.
Although I love to read books in dialects other than the mainstream, I am always happy when books show the heterogeneity of different races and ethnicities. For example, Grace and her family, like many African American families, speak MAE versus speaking AAE.
What I hope kids take away from reading this book:
I think that kids are going to be able to take away an appreciation for families that may look different than the “normal” family structure. Nowadays, there are so many different varieties of family structure that kids should start to learn to see these differences just as they are, as families.
Also, I think that African American/British? girls will see very positive images of themselves while reading this book. If the child is an AAE-speaking girl, she may not fully identify with Grace, but the visuals alone will at least aid in this.
When reading this book, you can point out the different ways Grace wears her hair throughout the story, the different foods that are eaten, but also what may be the same too. Also point out the different clothing seen in America versus in The Gambia, but also how Gamibians seem to wear both traditional and modern clothing. I think American children have a skewed view of what they think life is like in Africa so making these points may help them.
If anything, Grace is an inspirational character who I think all children can relate to…Nice job Hoffman and Binch!
Remember…Children need more books that look like them, sound like them, and positively expose them to the diverse cultures and languages that surround them everyday.