When I pulled back the cover of Little Heroes of Color, I was greeted with a heartfelt dedication to the author’s three children. Under that was a paragraph about how he, David Heredia is the father of two daughters and a son who are always eager to learn about people who look like them, especially innovators and visionaries. This is a tale that you’ve no doubt, heard before–especially in the publishing world, where children of color still have to search diligently for books about kids who look like them on the cover.
At 24 pages, this board book is for the younger crowd–preschoolers. However, I wouldn’t count this one out from being a gift for a baby shower or for a little one’s first birthday as we all know the importance of reading to your little ones. I also can not stress enough how picture books help children develop in many ways including strengthening visual thinking skills and even aiding them in creating dialogue about the world they live in.
Heredia’s book is filled with a pretty diverse group of people of color: 50 trailblazers from a range of races and ethnicities. There’s folks I know of like Yuri Kochiyama and Ernie Barnes to folks that I’ve just recently learned about in recent years like Arturo Alfonso Schomburg and Maya Lin and even folks I’ve never known about like Dr. Wanda Diaz-Merced and Arvind Cupta. Here, young readers have a book that is pretty accessible filled with a cartoony art style, simple captions and bright colors in the background to help each person mentioned stand out even more. Personally, I think there’s a good mix of living and dead heroes mentioned: featured is From Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution, to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Supreme Court Justice from Puerto Rico. Here is an incredible collection of BIPOC who sought to push past the boundaries of their day and time in science, the arts, government, and more.
I believe children of color will soak in each page and not only see themselves represented but also want to know and read more about several of these folks which in turn will be even greater opportunity to learn more about folks who like them and even folks that don’t. For other children, Heroes of Color can act as a gateway to important people who happen to be non-white from around the world in an easy introduction via a children’s book. Knowing that anyone can accomplish extraordinary things and anyone can become a hero that breaks past boundaries and makes an impact is a lesson all children should learn early on.
The artwork also opens another layer of understanding: seeing people with different flags and different cultural, traditional clothes from different cultures can open up dialogue on where some of these folks are from. Examples include Sitting Bull and Dr. Anandi Copal Joshi. There are ladies with headscarves and hijab with folks even in uniform, some heroes have specific items with them like a violin or a turtle. Imagine the questions: Is that turtle? She’s a biologist? What’s that? Is that violin? What type of noise does it make?
Oh, I love success stories about folks with humble beginnings and I love a good story about an underdog. Heredia elaborates in his book, The Freelance Hustle: The Complete Guide To making A Living As A Freelance Artist that before Scholastic said yes to this book, they gave him a solid no. When he first pitched it to them the first time, it was rejected by email eleven minutes after he sent it over. Regardless, the author believed in his idea and went back to work on it. Originally conceived as an animated web series that was well enough received by the public (went on to win six at six different film festivals), he wanted to adapt it for a children’s book, thinking of his children.
After some time, with more press, and much persistence the second time around, Scholastic gave the thumbs up. I think of this quote from Heredia from an interview from Voyage LA when he spoke about his family and what he and his wife wanted for their children: “…our cultures are very important to us and we wanted to ensure that we educate our kids not just about our cultures, but about the richness of other influential people in other cultures not normally discussed in textbooks.”
I’m here for the publishing industry all the way down to picture books for children to have more. To have more books about people of color, to have more books written and illustrated by people of color and ultimately–I’m here for more space and more opportunities for people of color to make books about people of color and be the champions, the heroes that they can be in the world for all the kids of color who need to see themselves in the books they read. David Heredia’s Heroes of Color is a great addition to that movement and to your child’s bookshelf.
Little Heroes of Color is available now where most books are sold!
The Freelance Hustle: The Complete Guide To making A Living As A Freelance Artist can be purchased here.
David Heredia is all about promoting inclusion and diversity through art, animation and professional development. His freelance company Heroes of Color LLC has been featured in the New York Times, on NPR, and PBS Online. His long-term commitment to educating through art has led to the creation of professional development workshops such as the Business of Freelance which educates college students how to monetize their creativity. See more of his work on his website, Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.
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