"I am a story," begins Julius Lester's creative new picture book, Let's Talk About Race, a child-friendly, engaging book perfectly suited to get kids thinking, and talking, about this important subject. Lester, a master storyteller and award-winning novelist, focuses on the sharing of personal stories to explore similarities and differences. And he leaps right in and begins with himself.

"Take me, for example," Lester continues. "I was born on January 27, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri. (I'm kind of old, huh?) HOW DOES YOUR STORY BEGIN?" Race, too, is part of the story, Lester writes. But, he cautions, stories that tell us that one race is better than others are simply not true. Addressing readers directly, the author asks them to close their eyes and feel their bones beneath their skin, and try the same experiment with a family member. It's a vividway of showing children that beneath our skins, we are the same.

Lester, who taught for 32 years at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, shares in a note to this book, "I write because our lives are stories. If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are mainly in the details." Perfectly complementing Lester's conversational, friendly tone are Karen Barbour's vibrant, colorful paintings, which depict children of many cultures and races. There's also a lively use of typeface and design. Sharing Let's Talk About Race with young children is a great way to launch your family's exploration of Black History Month.

"I'll take off my skin," Lester challenges his readers at the end. "Will you take off yours?" Deborah Hopkinson's newest book is Billy and the Rebel, a story for young readers inspired by a true incident at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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