I’m always on the lookout for new books illustrated by Shane W. Evans, one of my favorites. This joyous book for children aged 4-8 shows the different ways in which kids are encouraged to raise their hands from the time they are very little. (For toddlers in my family, it was the prompted response to the question, “How big are you?”)
A young girl is urged by her parents to put up her hands to greet the sun, play peek-a-boo, take a stretch, get a hug, dance, pray, play ball, and make “high fives” with others.
Most of the images reflect the positive aspects of being part of a family and a community. The last of the double-page spreads shows a group of people lifting their hands in advocacy for change, holding signs ranging from “Spread Love,” “Water = Life,” to “Lift Every Voice” and “Black Lives Matter.”
As the author said in an interview, she was disturbed by so many images in the media of black people with their hands raised in situations of violence and surrender; she wanted to show black children there were also many positive aspects of “hands up.” The people depicted this book are enthusiastic, supportive, and loving. A message not stated but nevertheless conveyed is that, no matter what color you are, to paraphrase Tolstoy, all happy families are much alike. If we all focused on those commonalities, the world might be a better place.
Shane Evans uses textured mixed-media watercolor and pencil illustrations in bright pastel hues that convey a mood of happiness and celebration, with a sense of dynamism and buoyancy that will cheer readers.
Evaluation: It is much more common to find books about black children set in times of the severe discrimination of Jim Crow or the horrific circumstances of slavery. Here, the author and illustrator combine to send an affirmative message about a contemporary black family that is loving, strong, and contributes in a positive way to the world around it.
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2019