(Simon & Schuster)
In Sulwe, Lupita Nyong’o tells us that we are all uniquely beautiful.
Author: Lupita Nyong’o
Genre: Picture Book
Reader Appeal: Ages 3-7
In 1978 I lived on a military base surrounded by what can only be described as a soup bowl of the American melting pot. In our building there were 10 families, every color of the rainbow. I represented the light, almost see-through color. And I hated it. I wanted to be brown with dark hair, or black with curly hair. I wanted to be unique, special. I wanted to be anything but what I was. I won’t bore you with the story of how my friend tried to give me an afro like hers, but I will say that in Lupita Nyong’o’s debut picture book, the title character Sulwe has a few ideas similar to mine.
Sulwe is born the color of midnight, darker than the rest of her family, darker than anyone she knows. She tries to lighten her skin. She tries to erase it. She even she prays to be made lighter, but of course that doesn’t happen.
Nighttime whisks Sulwe away on a journey through time and space. It’s part history, part mythology, and a fair amount of good old mom advice. In the end, Sulwe learns what all girls (and boys) should learn at a young age: We are uniquely made and beautiful.
The illustrations in Sulwe are stunning too, thank you Vashti Harrison. It’s fascinating to see light and dark made into characters. I’ll not be able to look at the stars the same way again.
Our world is a beautiful place, and we are a part of that beauty. That’s the message Lupita Nyong’o hopes you’ll share with your children through this book.
Let's Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this book:
• Sulwe tries some unique ways to change her color. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever done to change the way you look? Were you happy with the result?
• Sulwe is a story about a black child. Do you think this book be for other ethnicities? Why or why not?
• Sulwe means "star." What does your name mean? If you had to change the meaning of your name, what would it be?
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