Earlier this year I mentioned that I have a true fondness for children’s books about mommies and babies, more specifically Black mamas and their offspring. I figured that it has something to do with the relationship that I have with my mom, my first best friend and the one who introduced the world of reading to me. I’m much more aware of children’s literature aka kid lit nowadays and I’m always looking for new reads to share for the adults in my life who have kids, like my siblings or my friends. It is always a plus when I can find books that feature little girls and having little Black girls front and center never hurts the recommendation.
In Brown Sugar Babe, the creative team of writer Charlotte Watson Sherman and visual artist Akem gives us the most delightful journey of validating Brown skin through the wonders of everything ordinary and extraordinary in the world. We learn that here when a little girl has doubts about the color of her skin, her mama shows her the light. And by light I mean, mama dukes shows baby girl what’s up and also where the lovely color brown can be found–everywhere from our kitchens to the outdoors. Sherman’s lovely prose sets its own rhythm and is never too wordy and is easy to follow along for young readers. Brown is many things: musical…athletic..poetic and it shows through the reading.
From “your brown eyes are chocolate drops brown sugar babe, your hair, a crown of brown curls, fierce as a lion’s mane.” to “Brown is a laughing sound, raspy and hoarse, fingers snapping, toe-tapping, singing and dancing of course”, the writing provides lots of affirming descriptors and imagery that will strike up the imagination and make reading with a little one fun and engaging. The author’s note at the end of the book elaborates on why she wanted to write a poem to “highlight the splendor of this underestimated color for young boys and girls so they too will love the skin they are in”. It is a heartfelt message that certainly gets crossed from page to page.
Artist Akem weaves artwork that is all things soft and dreamy and very much a perfect complement to Sherman’s words. There’s no questioning who has brown skin, no whitewashing of skin color or erasure of features. Brown is powerful! Brown is beautiful! Brown takes to new heights! Yummy things like gingerbread men and spiced cider seem to leap off the page and violins and trees take up space and leave impactful lines. Akem’s illustrations make readers use all their senses when following along: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, for sure! As much as I love the poetic rendering, I’m here for the artwork as well and I’m a firm believer that the visuals help guide budding readers long before they master the alphabet and their first chapter books. Additionally, you can never have enough picture books about brown-skinned girls learning about how extraordinary the color of their skin is.
Brown Sugar Babe is a heartfelt offering to the children’s book genre in 2020. Little ones ages four to eight will enjoy this affirming, book on loving the skin they are in and they’ll be in wonder of how immersal and warm the world is through the lens of the dazzling illustrations and lyrical flow of the words.
This is the book I want to give to my future daughter, this is the book I want to read to her before bedtime on the days that have brought us tears. In a world that regularly attempts to assert that darker skin, that brown skin isn’t worthy this particular read is endearing and lovingly ready to be a contender to such attitudes.
Brown Sugar Babe will be available in stores Feburary 04, 2020. You can pre-order it today!
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“Your brown eyes are chocolate drops brown sugar babe, your hair, a crown of brown curls, fierce as a lion’s mane” 🙏🏾 • • • We are so overjoyed to have a copy of Brown Sugar Babe with lovely words by @charlottewatsonsherman and art by the Amazing @akemiart ! It is one of our most anticipated children’s books for 2020! A big thank you to @boydsmillskane For sending us a copy. Soon to be released in January 2020 so look forward to our review of this very precious, precious book about when a little girl has doubts about the color of our skin, her mother shows her all the wonderful, beautiful things Brown can be! #brownsugarbabe #boydsmillspress #akem #charlottewatsonsherman #bnplit #kidlit
Charlotte Watson Sherman has loved words ever since Pippi Longstocking hijacked her imagination in third grade. She grew up, the only girl, with too many brothers, in the Pacific Northwest’s Emerald City—Seattle. A lifelong daydreamer, she last published a chapter book—Eli and the Swamp Man—decades ago, but never stopped writing. Her debut picture book, BROWN SUGAR BABE, will be published by Boyds Mills & Kane Press, Spring 2020. She currently lives near a marine sanctuary in southern California. See more of her online on her website and on Twitter.
Akem is a Black Canadian that lives and works in Vancouver, BC. She paints backgrounds for the animation industry. She also writes SF/F short stories and authors and does illustration work for picture books and comics. She is always interested in illustrating myths, legends, folktales, and fantasy works. See more oh her on her website and also on Instagram. Consider supporting her Patreon!
Have you checked out our most anticipated books of 2020 yet? We’ll be reviewing these books over the course of the year, see our list here.
You can always check the Literature category for our site’s book reviews and other book news here.
Let us know what you’re reading or looking forward to reading this year, and be sure to follow along with us on our bookstagram account on Instagram here.