The story of Chocolate Me!, written by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, is about the bullying of a young boy. He is teased for looking different, yet with the guidance of a loving and nurturing mother, finds his way toward self-acceptance.
I'm so excited to finally have Chocolate Me! on hand! Boo received a copy as a birthday present from her Grammy, so this review is coming from having read, and grown to love, our very own (and much worn) copy. Chocolate Me! is rated for ages 4 and up, yet children of all ages can appreciate it. For the little ones, the wonderful artwork is alive and expressive, down to the sorrowful eyes of a little boy who's feeling emotionally crushed. You don't need to read the words to follow the story's heart.
For beginning readers, Chocolate Me! is easy enough to read. With only a few sentences per page, my 4-year-old was capable of working out most of the words on her own. However, by no means is that a reason not to read it aloud with your child. In fact, the flow of the story, along with much of the sentence structure, read more like a poem, making it difficult for my daughter to fully grasp its richness without our assistance. I consider that a bonus, if for no other reason than teasing based on skin and hair differences is a topic that should be discussed as a family (especially in transracial adoptive families, such as ours).
Nearly every other page in the book has the words "chocolate me" typeset somewhere. I really enjoyed this. Serving as a baseline, regardless of whether or not you choose to read "chocolate me" aloud, the words' visual presence help underscore the melody, as well as the meaning, of the overall story.
As far as the title of the book is concerned, having a blog with that refers to my daughter as "chocolate" has garnered more than my fair share of people's disagreements in terms of its usage in describing her skin tone. But as I've mentioned in my "About" page, flavours are not an uncommon way for children to describe themselves, according to Marguerite A. Wright, Ed.D. in I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla:
When asked about "What color are you?" they are just as likely to mention the color of their clothes as the color of their skin. Moreover, children who do have an awareness of their skin color describe it with their own distinctive color words, such as chocolate, vanilla, or peach,which relate to their experience with food rather than with racial categories. (pp. 14-15)Thus, I do not find the title of Chocolate Me! off-putting, nor unreasonable when opening up discussions of racial differences when speaking with small children. In fact, I believe it is an excellent starter vocabulary for discussing race prior to a child's understanding of more political terminology.
Overall, I have nothing but nice things to say about Chocolate Me! It addresses issues with which I know we, as a family, will be dealing for many years to come. The self-loving affirmation wrapped in the pages of Chocolate Me! will provide yet another positive image in our household, hopefully nurturing a strong sense of self-worth in my daughter as she grows into the person she is meant to be.