Books & Literature

Book Review: My Skin, Your Skin, by Laura Henry-Allain & Onyinye Iwu

EARLY LEARNING: Written by Early Years expert and children’s media creator, Laura Henry-Allain MBE, My Skin, Your Skin is a powerful book to support discussions about race and anti-racism.

One of the best of its kind. Here’s a book that every child and adult should read, and every primary school should study.

We’ve just come through this year’s National Reconciliation Week and are fast heading towards Refugee Week and NAIDOC Week this month, so anti-racism and equality are high on the agenda around the country. As they should be. The benefits of multiculturalism are well researched and proven and, at an early age, our natural tendency is to accept others regardless of their heritage or skin colour. Intolerance and racism are learned behaviours.

Laura Henry-Allain & Onyinye Iwu’s picture book is therefore not only timely, but necessary, and thankfully, they’ve done the subject justice for their target audience.

This is a book to be read with an adult as there are a few words that may fail young readers, although the concepts are easy to pick up regardless. The book begins by explaining how we are all different, not just through our heritage, but our eye and hair colour, height, religion, the make-up of our family, disability, and so on. It’s through these types of simple analogies that Henry-Allain and Iwu are able to make the complex subject of discrimination so easy to understand.

Furthermore, the book celebrates individuality, reiterating its two primary messages again and again: you are amazing, and racism is never okay. Once again, ample examples illustrate that second message: leaving someone out of a game because of their race, being mean to someone because of their race, being negative about a doll with black skin, and so on.

The celebration of all the wonderful variety in the world is the third and equally important focus of the book. Here, the author and illustrator look at the things that are different which we already appreciate and love, from food and music, to language and festivals. Connecting the dots to demonstrate how we can be racist or discriminatory yet still enjoy the benefits of multiculturalism is a smart way to open children’s minds.

A colour glossary concludes the picture book, followed by some questions to prompt self-examination and finally, a useful guide for adults reading the book to help them promote empowerment and tackle racism.

Beautifully designed, full of colour, and extremely well written, My Skin, Your Skin should be on every primary school library shelf and in every home collection. It’s one of the best of its kind.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: November 2021
RRP: $19.99 hardcover

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