Jessica N. Crutcher shows children that the shade of their skin color doesn’t matter with her charming picture book I Love Me and the Skin I’m In.
Jessica, the central character, is a young African American girl who is upset about being teased at school. On the ride home, Jessica has tears in her eyes when she tells her mother: “They said I can’t be black because I’m too light. Is it true, Mommy? Am I not black? What am I?”
Her mother explains that she had similar experiences growing up, and recounts what her own mother told her: “You are perfect just the way you are.” Jessica’s mom encourages her to make other friends, and she does, bonding with three classmates who have been teased for having dark skin, light skin, and red hair and freckles. Jessica’s teacher speaks to the antagonists and they soon apologize.
Although basic in its anti-bullying conceit, this book differs from similar stories in that it mentions many “reasons” for teasing, allowing kids to see just how arbitrary, and silly, such bullying really is. The text is well-composed and presented, as are the images, with one glaring exception: the book’s first interior image misspells the word “elementary” on a large sign that reads “Elementery School.”
One of the story’s best attributes is that Jessica is taught to rely on herself, as her mother tells her: “I will do anything to protect you, but there are moments like this where I will not always be around when someone says something to hurt you.” The full-color illustrations help to convey the story, and distinctions in skin tone, a vital component of that story, are effective.
The story is based on Crutcher’s own childhood experiences, and her wise decision to tell the tale in the present tense provides an additional sense of immediacy. I Love Me and the Skin I’m In would make an excellent addition to elementary school libraries everywhere.
Also available as an ebook.