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MAR Book Review: Something Happened In Our Town

Each week Moms Against Racism will review a book from our monthly book list and provide questions and prompts for discussion with your kids. Let us know how it goes!

Police brutality and racial injustice can be challenging topics to broach with young children in a manner which avoids graphic violent content and remains developmentally appropriate. In Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice, authors Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard have managed to do just that, with accompanying illustrations by Jennifer Zivoin adding to the story. This gentle introduction to heavy subject matter is simple, clear, and direct while leaving ample room for conversation and discussion with parents and caregivers.

Something Happened in Our Town follows two families, one White and one Black, as they discuss and share their reactions to a Black man who is shot by a police officer in their community. It addresses the common scenario of children overhearing news stories and adult conversations in their community, and demonstrates how parents can reassure children, clear up misconceptions and misinformation, and aid them in processing a traumatic event. The families’ conversations in the book address issues of race and instances of racial bias, police brutality, racial injustice, and prejudice. Parents and caregivers of young children will also find this book beneficial as the adults in the story model effective questioning, providing age appropriate answers, and listening to children while discussing challenging topics. There is also a substantial guide for parents and caregivers included at the end of the book with guidelines for addressing racial bias and racial injustice with children, as well as child-friendly definitions of vocabulary words, sample dialogues, questions and answers, and additional resources.

The authors have written this book with a target audience of children ages 4-8. For my own children, ages 5 and 7, it was optimally geared towards their developmental stages. The book was simplistic and matter of fact enough for my 5 year old to understand, but the conversations presented were nuanced enough that my 7 year old raised questions and had many discussion points throughout. This book triggered powerful discussions in my household pertaining to Black Lives Matter and current events. It is not only a recommended read for families with young children, but would also be an excellent resource for educators as it provides many opportunities for extension in the classroom. In the words of my 7 year old, “Black people aren’t always treated fairly and Black people should be treated the same as White people are.”

As mentioned, there is an extensive resource for parents and caregivers at the back of the book. Here are a few questions from the book and from us that focus on MAR’s August theme of racial injustice. Try the following questions as a discussion starting point after reading:

  • What do you think the world would be like if everyone was exactly the same?

  • Who are the people in your life who help to keep you safe?

  • Do you have kids in your class that look like the characters in this book? Are they treated the same or different than everyone else? Do they get in trouble more often? Why do you think that happens?

We hope reading this book with your children help both you and them become more comfortable talking race, racial injustice, and police brutality. If you would like additional support, make sure you join our Moms Against Racism Facebook Group.

This blog post has been brought to you by our partner-sponsor Bolen Books. If you are looking to add anti-racism books to your personal library, please buy from Bolen!

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