Shades of Black
A Celebration of Our Children
Written by: Sandra L. Pinkney
Photographs by: Myles C. Pinkney
This is a book that was published 14 years ago, but I love it's message and how it celebrates African American children and all the qualities that make each child unique and special. It begins with the phrase, "I am Black. I am Unique" opposite a photograph of a beautiful wide-eyed, smiling African-American child. Each page thereafter uses metaphors to describe how children describe the color of their skin from, "I am the coppery brown in a pretzel" to "I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick". Each statement is paired with a photograph of an African-American child celebrating their unique quality. The book goes on to use metaphors to express the many ways African-American children are unique and special from one another. The phrase, "I am Black. I am Unique" repeats throughout the book, each time before a new characteristic. The author specifically focuses on skin tone, hair, and eye color. The book ends with the statement, "I come from ancient Kings and Queens. When you look at me, what do you see? I am Black, I am proud to be me."
This book could be used as part of a social studies unit in which students examine similarities and differences in one another. Often times with units like this we have children complete self-portraits of themselves describing their attributes. How wonderful it would be to dive deep with this work and have students think of how truly unique they are from one another. It would also serve as a wonderful text to illustrate the use of metaphors as a way to describe something in ourselves or in nature. Pair this with "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss to encourage students to describe something using strong figurative language. With phrases like, "My eyes are the shimmering glow of ebony in an Onyx" this text will help model for students how to use descriptive language to make their writing stronger. Rather than simply describing their eyes as black or brown, they can be encouraged to use metaphors to make a stronger visual for the reader. Students could even create their own "Shades of Us" book in which they describe themselves and pair their statements with photographs of themselves to create a class book that celebrates their unique and special qualities.
Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney are a husband and wife team that come from a large family of published authors and illustrators. Celebrated illustrator Jerry Pinkney is the patriarch of the family. Click here for an interesting article that celebrates the Pinkney family as a literary dynasty.