cover image Chocolate Me!

Chocolate Me!

Taye Diggs, illus. by Shane W. Evans. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-312-60326-7

It's tough being the only African-American kid on the block. The young narrator's white acquaintances tease him ruthlessly about his name, his dark skin ("It's brown like dirt. Does it hurt to wash off?"), his wide nose, and his 'fro. It's enough to make any kid wish he were just like everyone else%E2%80%94until Moms offers just the right kind of comfort: "You have skin like velvet fudge frosting mixed in a bowl.... Cotton candy hair soft to the touch of my fingertips." The titular phrase is used like a refrain, initially a burden and later a celebration of self. Actor Diggs, making his children's book debut, gives an unvarnished take on the emotional impact of taunting that cuts to the core of one's identity, though not every reader will find satisfaction in the ending, in which the narrator is reconciled with his insensitive peers over chocolate cupcakes. But Evans makes the hero's journey to confidence irresistible, with bighearted, stylized pictures that draw on the emotionally exuberant vocabulary of street art and anime. Evans doesn't minimize the cruelty the boy suffers, but he makes it feel surmountable. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (Nov.)