I Am Brown

Authored by Ashok Banker
Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
Published by Lantana

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I Am Brown exudes joy; it is a picturebook which celebrates being brown-skinned. It is a mirror for children of colour and a window for all children to celebrate difference. The book draws on the universal qualities of being a child while highlighting important cultural differences in the form of faith, food and dress.

The simple text underlines the power of the simple list-like statements. The words and the text dance across the page as the reader’s eye follows the interplay between picture and word. The illustrations by Sandhya Prabhat are bold with cartoonish figures radiating warmth and confidence. The children’s faces with exaggerated features are full of expression.  The colour palette is warm and earthy, which provides a wide range of browns to complement the vibrant colours which convey the variety of life.

The curved and diagonal lines provide fluidity and movement to the story. It suits the head-over-heels enthusiasm of our protagonist, who dominates the opening spread. The attention then turns to the reader on the final double page with the words “I am brown. I am amazing. I am YOU.’ This provides a clear mirror to the brown-skinned reader while also being a window onto different lives. We read and see pictures of fattoush and jhal muri on the food pages; of a lehanga, a kurta and a dhoti on the clothes page and the silhouette of places of worship: ‘I pray at a temple, a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a gurdwara, a dargah and a shrine. Everywhere and nowhere.’

This picturebook needs to be read aloud in every school and available to borrow from the school library. It is a beautiful book for schools to use as they build up their collection of books which reflect realities for our children.

If you haven’t already, please read the CLPE’s two Reflecting Realities surveys into ethnic representation in UK Children’s Literature (2018 and 2019)I