Julius Lester, , illus. by Karen Barbour. . HarperCollins/Amistad, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028596-8

Adults unsure of how to begin talking about race will find in these pages a way to tap into the subject and the questions it raises. Lester (To Be a Slave ) addresses readers as if he is speaking to each in private conversation. He explains his belief that each human being "is a story" and, by appealingly poking fun at himself, he begins to tell his own tale: "I was born on January 27, 1939... (I'm kind of old, huh?)." He describes a bit about his family, his favorite food, hobbies, religion, etc. "Oh," he pauses. "There's something else that is part of my story. I'm black. What race are you?" he asks readers, tapping into the tensions inherent in such a discussion. "Because people feel bad about themselves," Lester says, people sometimes claim, "My race is better than your race ." But this isn't true, the author states simply. If we take our skin off—here Barbour (Fire! Fire! Hurry! Hurry! ) paints a folk-style tableau of skeletons with cheerful smiles and arms upraised—"I would look just like you, and you would look just like me." Lester presents the wealth of human difference as a treasure trove for discovery, and Barbour's naïf-style spreads, flooded with birds and flowers and brimming with color, provide plenty of visual interest. The artist's recurring tree symbolism underscores Lester's suggestion of a shared human family tree. Ages 6-10. (Jan.)