When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke

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Hachette, 2020. ISBN: 9780734420428.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Author illustrator, Beneba Clarke uses her considerable talents and background to increase student understanding and awareness of the phrase they will have heard a lot lately. 'Black Lives Matter' is a mantra repeated on every news platform, making it one of the phrases that has defined the last decade. Used after the shooting death of black teen, Trayvon Martin in February 2012, people could not help but be caught up in the world wide response to the acquittal of his killer, penning the phrase to make people aware that black lives were being thrown away. Adults reading this picture book will be only too aware of the background to the phrase, and will be able to support younger children as they learn what the phrase means and how it came to be used.
Beneba Clarke shows a supportive family, being strong and positive with their offspring, making sure that 'Black Lives Matter' is a phrase with meaning. A pregnant woman gives way to a young couple and their baby, and as each page is turned, the child grows to maturity, the verse on each page telling us how their lives matter.
As part of the family's daily life we see police lined up against a peaceful demonstration, the police outline of a body on the road, people crying, running figures escaping police brutality. Each image recalls incidents where the authorities have scorned those whose lives they have sworn to protect, while in the background we can see images of the posters carried in the demonstrations.
The stunning illustrations with bold black outlines on textured paper, the images filled with pastel, bring a dark and foreboding quality to the pages, as the words point out the adversities suffered by black people. But the family endures, reminding their offspring that 'Black Lives Matter', offering hope for a future where Black Lives do indeed Matter, impelling us all to be part of that future.
Themes: Racism, Police brutality, Unlawful death, Black Lives Matter, Demonstrations.
Fran Knight