cover image The Talk

The Talk

Alicia D. Williams, illus. by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9529-6

Williams (Jump at the Sun) writes tenderly about a playful, athletic Black boy named Jay who’s growing like a weed at the speed of light. When he becomes too big to be little and too lean to have “chub in my cheeks,” his family gives him variations of The Talk. As Jay spends time playing with best friends, all portrayed with brown skin, they’re advised to no longer gather in groups. “Grandpa says, I believe y’all could be the next/ Thurgood Marshall, Elijah McCoy, and Bessie Coleman.// But some folks might think you’re the next troublemaker.” Whether he’s visiting a store or walking down the street in a new hoodie, Jay’s relatives offer tips for how he might survive an anti-Black world, sure to tell him that “I’m not to blame” and that “I’m the beat of their hearts; the joy in their smiles.” This portrayal of a close-knit family and Jay’s Black kid joy is as warmhearted as it is resolute, while digitally rendered illustrations by debut artist Uchendu depict desaturated instances of racial prejudice as well as brightly hopeful portraits of Black luminaries, providing an emotive realism to Jay’s maturation and his family’s greatest fears and dreams. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Brenda Bowen, Book Group. Illustrator’s agent: Jessica Saint Jean, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Oct.)