Friday, July 26, 2019

Review - New Friends for Zaza

New Friends for Zaza (Zaza)
by Mylo Freeman
Date: 2019
Publisher: Clavis
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Zaza is going to daycare for the first time. Will she and Rosie make new friends?

A warm book about cuddly friends and new friends. For toddlers ages 24 months and up, with a focus on the child's world.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book was first published in Europe. Maybe it's still acceptable there to depict black children like this, but North American readers are likely to find the illustrations offensive.

My first thought upon seeing the cover was that the black kids looked kind of like golliwogs. For those who don't know, a golliwog is often viewed as a form of blackface. Golliwogs were made as children's toys (gotta start training the racists young, right?) and had features such as black skin, white-rimmed eyes, and red lips. Now, the black kids in this book may have pink lips, but they've got the lighter-rimmed eyes. Perhaps if the eyes on the white children had been done the same way, it wouldn't have been as much of an issue; but the white kid's eyes are merely dots, leaving the black kids to be the only ones drawn in this borderline offensive style (which also makes them look a bit deranged).

The story itself is simple and boring (it's a toddler book, so I wasn't expecting anything complex), and with the grammatically incorrect (or at least grammatically awkward) first line, the writing didn't impress me. Besides, I was far too distracted by the illustrations, and wondering how a book like this got published in 2019. (There are apparently other books about Zaza, so the horse is already out of the barn, so to speak. Maybe Europeans aren't as sensitive to these kinds of depictions of black people, but I really don't understand why a North American publisher chose to publish the books in English over here!)

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 0/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 0.83 out of 5

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