I Am Brown

I Am Brown
Ashok Banker and Sandhya Prabhat
Lantana Publishing

Internationally acclaimed author but debuting as picture book writer Ashok Banker, and illustrator/animator Sandhya Prabhat have together created a wonderful celebration of loving the skin you’re in – brown skin, that is.

Merely reading the title of their book took me back to a time when I was visiting the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan. Standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to it I was stopped by three young women wanting to take photos. One put her arm against mine and commented “You are so beautiful with your light skin and fair hair.” I was extremely embarrassed when another of them said, “Yes white skin beautiful, brown skin not beautiful.” She then invited me to her wedding soon to be celebrated. I hastened to say to these stunning girls that they were beautiful but I felt I hadn’t convinced them when we parted. If only somebody had given them a book that turns the whole skin colour question on its head like I Am Brown  when they were younger.

After its terrific front endpaper, the book begins with one lively child announcing ‘I am brown / I am beautiful / I am perfect’, then showing herself as the epitome of love, friendship and happiness.

We see a wide variety of occupations from astronaut to actor, writer to doctor and more, as well as …

The question of diversity is addressed in a multitude of ways – country of origin by a group of children around a globe with continents named (every one except Antarctica); that nineteen different languages are spoken – several Indian ones as well as Urdu, Turkish, German, English, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Swahili and Japanese. We see a wide variety of clothing,

food – tacos, noodles, vindaloo, places where ‘I pray’ including everywhere and nowhere.

Fizzing high spirits and happiness prevail in a book that makes readers feel good about themselves, concluding ‘I am brown / I am amazing/ I am YOU’.

What better way to end this thoroughly uplifting, cover to cover, ode – verbal and visual – to being brown, of being you, and of being whatever you want to be.

An absolute MUST for early years setting and classrooms everywhere.