Beautiful Shades of Brown
Brown is beautiful. Say it loud, say it proud, then read these books!
Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Felicia Marshall (Feb 2020)
Laura Wheeler Waring (1887-1948) combined colors to create the exact shades of brown that depicted the skin tones of the loved ones she painted. Artistic representation during the time period Waring came of age was far from inclusive. Portraits of African Americans and artwork created by black artists were not welcomed into museums. Waring pursued her passion and was eventually commissioned to paint important African American people for a traveling exhibit that displayed her art in the Smithsonian and other museums.
Brown Baby Lullaby by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by A. G. Ford (Jan 2020)
A family goes through their evening routine, ending with putting the "sweet brown baby" to bed. A young Black couple plays with their baby on a blanket on a large expanse of grass in front of a white, two-story home. The sun sets and they go inside, where rhyming verses bring the family through playtime with pots to a messy spaghetti dinner in the high chair, followed by a bath, kisses, dancing to Coltrane, a story, and a tuck-in. Spanish words are organically sprinkled throughout the English text—"Look, mi hijo," and "Vamos, fussy baby"—making this one of few picture books to represent Afro-Latinx families.
Brown: The Many Shades of Love by Nancy Johnson James, illustrated by Constance Moore (Sep 2020)
Celebrating all the beautiful browns in one child’s colorful family! Mama’s brown is chocolate, clear, dark, and sweet. Daddy’s brown is autumn leaf, or like a field of wheat. Granny’s brown is like honey, and Papa’s like caramel. In this loving and lovely ode to the color brown, a boy describes the many beautiful hues of his family, including his own—gingerbread.
I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (Mar 2020)
This is a straightforward, unsubtle celebration of brown-skinned power, beauty, ability, and diversity. Clearly intended to counter the negative messages that dark-skinned children encounter early in their lives, the books bursts with love and energy, in the images and in the words. 'I am love, I am friendship, I am happiness.' The message continues, stating a vast range of professions, languages, religions, regions, homes, foods, and hobbies of brown-skinned people. The pages are packed with lively children and adults busy being their happy selves, highlighting—rather than homogenizing—diversity.
Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (Jan 2020)
Coretta Scott King 2021 Honoree
Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story — a song, a poem, a celebration — about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin. Several brown girls are presented across the pages as they share how the hue is featured in their lives. In a repeating pattern, Doyon first describes each kind of brown (feathery, amber, radiant, cozy, thundering, etc.) with descriptions of time spent with family and friends, from cocoa-sipping winter days to peaceful hikes in the woods. The text itself is a poem which dances playfully on the tongue when read aloud, featuring just the right amount of alliteration, a wide range of unusual vocabulary, and vibrant imagery. Juanita's illustrations are a celebration of these girls, using all shades of brown and many warm colors on a light yellow background. She gives particular care to the details that make the girls seem very real: fun hair clips, bandage-adorned skin, and patterns on clothes.