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Sulwe
Book
2019
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Booklist Reviews

Sulwe's "night-shaded skin" sets her apart from the people around her. Classmates call her names, she can't make friends, and no trick of makeup, dieting, or prayer succeeds in lightening her color. Then, one night, a shooting star carries her out from her bedroom into the origin story of Night and Day, two goddesses of starkly different shades. After the dark Night runs away to escape the world's cruelty, everyone realizes that they need her darkness just as much as they need the Day's light. This parable helps Sulwe understand that all skin tones have value, and she returns feeling beautiful. It's a lovely offering from Oscar-winner Nyong'o, whose own life inspired the story. Harrison's expressive illustrations—a duet of dark purples and light golds infused with heart and starlight—make it impossible to deny the beauty on display. A welcome celebration of Black girls, an important lesson for all kids (and grownups), and a necessary message for any child who has been made to feel unworthy of love on account of their looks. Grades K-2. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Sulwe, "born the color of midnight," has close-cropped hair and the darkest skin in her family. "Mama was the color of dawn, Baba the color of dusk, and Mich, her sister, was the color of high noon." When Sulwe's schoolmates call her names, she endeavors to lighten her skin, and even her mother's wisdom ("Brightness is not in your skin... Brightness is just who you are") cannot convince her of her inherent worth. A nested fable shows Sulwe what happens when Night and Day, two magnificent sisters, react to peoples' initial preference for Day's light. In frustration, Night retreats, taking dreams and secrets with her, until Day, and humankind, begin to miss Night: "we need you just the way you are." Though the fable strikes one odd note ("we need you so that we can... keep our secrets to ourselves"), the story draws its power from graceful prose by actress Nyong'o, making her authorial debut, and expertly executed animation-style art by Harrison (Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History). By turns beguiling (as when Sulwe's mother counsels her tearful daughter) and magical (a shooting star darts into Sulwe's room to share the story of Night and Day), the volume also clearly conveys that colorism is real, and it hurts. Sulwe's story confronts it head-on, with words and images that celebrate the "dark and beautiful, bright and strong." Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

PreS-Gr 2—A sweet story that discusses colorism and emphasizes self-love. In lyrical prose, actress-writer N'yongo tells the tale of young Sulwe, "born the color of midnight." Sulwe feels isolated from her lighter-skinned family, and from the children at school who call her racist names. She resorts to trying to lighten herself by wearing makeup, eating light foods, and even using an eraser to rub away her dark skin. Though her mother reassures Sulwe (whose name means 'star' in the Luo dialect) that she is beautiful and her brightness is internal, the young girl remains sad and skeptical. That night, she is taken on a journey by a shooting star and told the tale of Night and Day, two sisters who brought light and darkness to earth. Bullied for her darkness, Night disappears, leaving earth to suffer in perpetual sunlight. Eventually, Day brings her back, apologizing and assuring Night that she's exactly who she's meant to be. Sulwe wakes up from her nighttime adventure energized and confident, "dark and beautiful, bright and strong." Readers who are familiar with this experience will feel seen, while others will relate to feelings of being an outsider while learning about colorism. Harrison's art is captivating: warm golden tones blend flawlessly into rich, purple-hued night scenes, gorgeously accented with iridescent blues and galactic sprinkles of white. Youngsters who may miss parts of the lesson will remain enthralled with the artwork. VERDICT Though a bit uneven in its storytelling, this beautiful book covers an important topic rarely addressed for young audiences, with tenderness and joy. Sure to gain attention in picture book collections.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal.

Author Biography

Lupita Nyong&;o is a Kenyan actress and producer. Her first feature film role was in the film 12 Years a Slave, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as multiple accolades, including the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Critics&; Choice Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the NAACP Award. She has since starred in Mira Nair&;s Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ryan Coogler&;s record-breaking box office hit Black Panther, and most recently in Jordan&;s Peele&;s critically acclaimed horror film Us. Nyong&;o earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in Danai Gurira&;s play Eclipsed. She lives in Brooklyn.

Vashti Harrison, author and illustrator of the bestselling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, is an artist, author, and filmmaker with a passion for storytelling. She earned her MFA in film and video from California Institute of the Arts, where she snuck into animation and illustration classes to learn from Disney and DreamWorks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now she uses her love for both film and illustration to craft beautiful stories for children. - (Simon and Schuster)

Annotations

When five-year-old Sulwe's classmates make fun of her dark skin, she tries lightening herself to no avail, but her encounter with a shooting star helps her understand there is beauty in every shade. - (Baker & Taylor)

The Academy Award-winning actress presents the story of a little girl with beautiful, midnight-colored skin that makes her feel different from everyone, until a magical journey in the night sky transforms her perspective. Illustrated by the creator of Little Leaders. 250,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook. Illustrations. - (Baker & Taylor)

A New York Times bestseller!
Recipient of a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award
Recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children&;s Literary Work

From Academy Award&;winning actress Lupita Nyong&;o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong&;o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty. - (Simon and Schuster)

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