This New Book Finally Lets My Toddler See Characters Who Look Like Him & It's So Necessary

Since becoming a parent, I have found a new appreciation for children's books. Before my son was born, I paid very little attention to the genre. But afterwards, I suddenly found myself bombarded with countless choices, many of which were fantastic, but few of which made me feel like my family and my son were represented. The World Is Awake is here to change that.

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The World Is Awake is described as "a celebration of everyday blessings" -- a description that couldn't be more true. It details a day in the life of two young siblings who find themselves enraptured by the world around them. Over the course of one adventurous morning, afternoon, and evening, the unnamed brother and sister take time to marvel at the simple goings-on in their own backyard, playing in tall grass, lazing under rainbows, exploring an exceptionally clear pond, and marveling at animals in the zoo.

The book is filled with bright, gorgeous full-color illustrations that perfectly capture the marvelous world explored by the protagonists. But even more important than the beautiful illustrations and the enrapturing language, this book has an incredible message. In a time when so many things feel bleak, The World Is Awake reminds us -- and more importantly, our kids -- that there are still so many things to be thankful for. 

"This book is my expression of all we have regained through looking at life through the eyes of a child and all there is to be gained from that," author Linsey Davis, a correspondent on Good Morning America, tells CafeMom.

There is one other thing that makes this book unique, something I was immensely excited about when it came to reading the book to my own son. All of the protagonists in the book -- meaning the brother, sister, and their mother and father -- are black. Seemingly modeled, in part, after Davis's own family, The World Is Awake is a simple but beautiful example of how important representation in children's media is. 

I work hard to make sure my kid's bookshelf is diverse. Alongside the classic Dr. Seuss collection sit choices like I Am Jazz and Round Is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes. It's important to me that my son be introduced to different types of families, cultures, and people at a young age. But it is also just as important to me that he be able to find himself within the pages of the books we read together.

Finding books that represent him can be surprisingly difficult. When shopping for diverse children's books in my local bookstores, I often leave empty-handed. While the Internet obviously has a great selection, the numbers of multinational books, specifically, are heartbreakingly low. In 2015, it was reported that while 73.3 percent of children's books published that year featured white protagonists, only about 7 percent featured black ones. This is shocking considering that 38 percent of the US population consists of people of color. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon. The Cooperative Children's Book Center found that people of color -- meaning black, Latino, Native American, and Asian Pacific Americans combined -- only make up about 22 percent of children's book characters.

Those numbers do reflect a positive change -- just 20 years ago, the number of PoC in children's books was reportedly sitting at around 9 percent. Still, the disparities in these numbers prove just how important books like The World Is Awake are for young kids of color, kids who more than deserve to see themselves represented in a multitude of ways. There is something to be said for the feeling you get when you open the pages of a picture book to see characters who look like you -- and who not only look like you, but who are shown in such a beautiful, positive light.

Davis shares that it was exactly this same sentiment that drove her to write the book. "It's essential that all children's books have a window and a mirror," she says. "A mirror for kids to see the reflection of themselves and a window so they can peer out and see a world that is unfamiliar to them."

But the author also notes that while she is incredibly proud of the representation her book provides, she wants children to "see [the book] as a whimsical and fun way to take on the day and experience and bask in all of God's splendor around them."

The World Is Awake doesn't focus on its characters being black; it doesn't present the adorable little family as "different" or "strange." They are simply children -- children who are able to take the time to appreciate "buzzing bees," who marvel at the animals at the zoo, who have a healthy and vibrant dinner with their parents, and who easily celebrate those "everyday blessings." They are children who just so happen to be black, children with whom my little black son was ridiculously excited to explore, with every turn of the page.

The World Is Awake will be available for purchase on Amazon and in national retailers on February 6, 2018. 

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