Thursday, November 7, 2019

Review - You and Me Both

You and Me Both
by Mahtab Narsimhan
illustrated by Lisa Cinar
Date: 2020
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This is the story of two classmates who love all the same things: building tall block towers and knocking them down; strawberry jam on toast; jumping into big puddles in their matching boots. The narrator and his best friend, Jamal, might as well be twins—they have so much in common! And they always stick together.

When Jamal gets a haircut, his best friend gets his cut the same way. They’re sure their teacher will never be able to tell them apart. The vibrant, playful illustrations eventually reveal that the boys each have a different skin color.

Inspired by a true story that went viral on social media, about two boys with different skin colors who got the same haircut thinking it would make them identical, this is a joyful story about friendship, diversity, and how the things we share are more than skin-deep.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book may have been inspired by a viral story, but it's obviously lost something in the retelling. If you aren't aware of the backstory, You and Me Both could come across as a story about actual twins. (Even the back cover plays into it with the question, "What makes a twin?")

The illustrations are so rough and crude that the subtle differences between the boys are hard to see. It doesn't help that, with the exception of one illustration, all the pictures show the boys with unnatural skin colours (blue, yellow, purple). One has freckles and one doesn't, and one has somewhat curlier hair, but that's about all the hints about ethnicity you're going to get. Even the picture at the end showing the boys' more realistic skin tones doesn't necessarily rule out their being actual twins; there have been cases of twins born to multiracial parents where one twin looks white and the other looks black. The boys referring to themselves as twins could potentially confuse young readers. (The only real clue that the story is about friends is the brief mention of the boys having to say goodbye at the end of the day.)

The pictures really don't excite me, and the story is boring without appropriate context. (If you don't read the synopsis, you're not going to understand the significance of the "twins" thing.) If I was confused as an adult, I can't imagine kids are going to have it any easier.

Thank you to NetGalley and Owlkids Books for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.67 out of 5

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