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Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice

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Something Happened in Our Town follows two families—one White, one Black—as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.

Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues. Free, downloadable educator materials (including discussion questions) are available at APA's website.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published April 4, 2018

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Marianne Celano

4 books9 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 379 reviews
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,488 reviews842 followers
February 16, 2019
“Something bad happened in our town.
The news was on the TV, the radio, and the internet
the grown-ups didn’t think the kids knew about it.
But the kids in Ms. Garcia’s class heard some older kids
talking about it, and they had questions.”

Of course they had questions. I remember asking plenty of awkward questions when I was little. There are several different situations mentioned and different illustration styles.

The first is about a black man who was shot by a police officer. In a white family, young Emma asks why, and her parents say it was a sad mistake, but big sister has a cynical look on her face and says he was shot because he was black.

Illustration of Emma’s parents and sister discussing the shooting with her.

Then we jump to a discussion about the slaves who were brought to America which is followed by Mother showing Emma pictures from history and telling explain what patterns of behaviour are.

Illustration of Emma and her mother looking at photographs

The next family is black, and the questions revolve around whether or not the policeman will go to jail. Again, the parents try to give young Josh measured answers, but big brother says “Cops stick up for each other . . . and they don’t like Black men.”

Illustration of Josh’s family playing chess and discussing Black and White and choices.

As well as bright colour illustrations, there are very dark, scary ones that leave a lot to the imagination. I find them kind of frightening, which is also why an adult is required to be part of the reading experience, I think.

Illustration of history, today’s reality, and black leaders working for justice and equality around the world.

Both Emma and Josh learn about helping friends not to tease each other about funny names or wearing glasses, and when a new boy, Omad comes to school, they meet the challenge.

Illustration of Omad, poor little chap, facing a new class and a new language in a new country

Nobody will pick him for the soccer team, but they insist, of course. My only regret is that the authors didn’t see fit to make him a star soccer player and knock the socks off the other kids, but I guess that’s not really the point of the book!

There are very extensive “notes” at the end, which is actually quite a lengthy essay that should be read before you attempt to read this with a child. This is the beginning of it.

’Something Happened in Our Town is designed to be read to children ages 4 to 8, and focuses on bias (prejudiced attitudes) and injustice (discriminatory actions) against African Americans. Before reading this book to children, you may find it helpful to review the material in this Note. in addition to providing general guidance about countering racism with children, this Note offers child-friendly vocabulary definitions, conversation guides, and a link to additional online resources for parents and teachers. This information can help you feel more prepared to address the topic of racial injustice with young children.”

I have to say, this little book really doesn’t pull any punches. They let big sister and big brother spit out the problems as they see them, but the authors don’t let them discourage the kids from trying to do better. I expect the advice at the end will be very helpful for families living with these situations day-to-day.

Thanks to NetGalley and Magination Press for the preview copy from which I’ve shared quotes and illustrations.
#SomethingHappenedInOurTown #NetGalley
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,283 reviews263 followers
October 2, 2021

Written by psychologists, this picture book offers an age-appropriate story of racism and injustice that is timely and balanced in its approach to a complex subject. A police shooting of an African American man leads to questions and conversation in two homes, one with a Black family and one with a White family. Several viewpoints are shared with each group, with a message of making changes to long-held beliefs, including others who look or act differently and treating everyone with fairness. The two children get the chance to practice what they learn when they meet a new boy in their class, Omad, and invite him to join their soccer team. A helpful appendix includes notes to parents and caregivers who want to talk about racial bias and injustice with their children, along with additional resources for more information.
Challenged for "divisive language" and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
~Louisa A.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,931 reviews438 followers
April 25, 2022
'Something Happened in our Town' by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazard, who all have PhD's, is a children's book about racial prejudice. It is a picture book that discusses the shooting of Black men by police officers. It also mentions White people are treated better generally by police. The two elementary school kids, Emma, who is White, and Josh, who is Black, are curious because they heard older kids talking about a shooting. Their parents give them advice on how they should conduct themselves at school as well as what prejudice is.

Emma, for example, doesn't understand why Black people are called Black (people have different skin tones), or about slavery. Josh wants to know why people are talking about a Black man who got shot. Their parents discuss fairness, societal fears about Black men, and the need to work together to make changes. The parents model appropriate feelings, and discuss with age-appropriate explanations.

I have copied the book blurb:

"Something Happened in Our Town follows two families—one White, one Black—as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.

Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues. Free, downloadable educator materials (including discussion questions) are available at APA's website."

The book is designed to be read to children ages 4-8. It is short and can be read through by an adult in 20 minutes. Adults should read the Note to Parents and Caregivers in the back of the book. The illustrations are cool, and the subject material is very much age-appropriate.

Why am I, a childless mature adult, adding this book to "my books", and why have I made an effort to check it out to read it? Because it is a book being banned in many American states in the South, Midwest and Texas despite that it is an excellent book for parents to read to toddlers and youngsters.
Profile Image for Deborah.
752 reviews55 followers
November 17, 2020
Two kids, black Josh and white Emily question why a black man was shot by the police. The white family said it was a mistake, but the big sister said it was because he was black. Then they discussed the roles of blacks, whites, slavery, and breaking patterns. The black family said it was wrong when their son inquired if the police can go to jail. The big brother interjected that the policeman would not, because police unite against blacks. They discussed the unfairness of how blacks are treated versus whites, black role models to emulate, and the importance of working together. The following day a new kid, Omad, is introduced to the class and Josh and Emily realized that they need to break the patterns and be fair.

The target audience is four to eight year olds, which I thought that the material might be difficult for a four to five year old. Unfortunately, racism can start early and has been in the forefront this year with the cry, “Black Lives Matters.” There is a detailed and informative guide for parents and caretakers, which is longer than the book, on how to address racism and discussion topics. A handy and timely book for parents to handle this sensitive subject with young children.
Profile Image for Vannessa Anderson.
Author 0 books177 followers
July 8, 2018
Young children learn the hard way how police murder unarmed American Descendants of Freed Slaves for sport.

Emma, a young white girl learns she is white. Emma tells her mother how there are white people who believe they are better than American Descendants of Freed Slaves and believe they are dangerous when they are not.

Josh, an American Descendant of Freed Slaves asked his mother if police can go to jail for murdering someone who has done nothing wrong.

Something Happened In Our Town did an extraordinary job in explaining how justice doesn’t work for American Descendants of Freed Slaves.

What would have been a treat is for the authors to have included Malcolm X as a brave leader. The illustrations were on-point.
Profile Image for David.
620 reviews139 followers
February 21, 2022
This is a short but very honest book meant for ages 4-8 talking about how black people are targeted for being pulled over in their car, or more likely to me harmed during an arrest. I saw this book listed on a "most challenged book of 2020", which is telling me "read this now"!

It was approved by multiple committees advocating this conversation. Kids hear this at home. Avoiding any conversation conveys the message to kids that discussing race is taboo. White kids don't hear/see this at all, hence the lack of community understanding on why this needs to be discussed.

There is strong auxiliary material to help promote discussions at the end of the book. This book needs to be in schools. Kindergarten fantasy of finger painting rainbows and flowers and sunshine need this dose of reality.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,555 reviews197 followers
November 14, 2021
I picked this up for Banned Book Week back in September but didn't manage to get to it for a while. But it's definitely a worthwhile read and deserves a wide audience as a tool to help open conversations with children about racism and injustice. It's a little awkward as far as being a story, but that's obviously not its main purpose.
Profile Image for stefiereads.
311 reviews118 followers
June 12, 2020
Read some reviews from 2018 saying that "it is relevant to what happened today" and here we are in 2020, nothing the same, still the same.
Don't know what to say than, gosh it is so heartbreaking. An important book that parents need to read to their kids to teach them about racial injustice. I could not recommend this enough.
Profile Image for Heydi Smith.
2,883 reviews7 followers
November 30, 2020
I agree that this book is needed, though I’m sad that it is. I agree that teaching children about this topic can change their life responses.

I don’t agree with the way this book presents it. I do like the illustrations a lot!

Prejudice and racism is not limited to one race of people. All imperfect people have to fight to make a change happen. Blaming one race of people for racism is also racism. That’s not the change you’re trying to create, is it?

Racism of any race is wrong! We all have to fight it.
Profile Image for Stephanie ((Strazzybooks)).
1,013 reviews98 followers
April 24, 2018
Accessible language and examples for children. This book will inspire kids to make their schools and worlds a better place! I also loved the pictures, with important historical figures in the background.
Profile Image for Krystal.
386 reviews23 followers
February 18, 2018
This much needed children's book provides insightful historical and present day context regarding racial injustice in a manner that promotes compassion and willingness to work on these issues!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,070 reviews34 followers
April 16, 2021
I was aware of this book before I picked it up to read today. I knew that it was published and that there were many who felt it was a strong starting point for having conversations about race with younger children. More recently (as in the last week) it become a much more immediate and relevant title as two elementary schools in a neighboring district (which is very similar to ours demographically) had media specialists read/promote this book as part of a classroom resource. There was an immediate and swift backlash from some parents who claimed this book shouldn't be promoted because it has a line that states "they [police] don't like black men." Many parents vocalized that this is NOT how they want to have police officers portrayed and that because of this the book should not have been made available.

It was removed, the school district publicly apologized, and the issue of race was silenced.

So, clearly I became much more interested in reading the book. I was AMAZED at how angry people had been over what was a very small part of the book. Two children, one white and one black, ask their parents about a shooting that had recently occurred. Each family talks through the issue and attempts to explain how something like that happened when a black man was stopped by the police. Even though killing him was a mistake. Then, the kids go to school the next day and a new student has arrived-a refugee named Omar. They both think back to the lessons they learned the day before and try to include him. End of the story. There are almost more pages of resources and conversation starters in the back than there are pages of actual narrative.

Overall, is this the best "story" I've ever read in a picture book? No.
Is this a book I would purchase, read, and promote? Yes.

It's important and reasonably well done. In a week where the news cycle would clearly show we have work to do, it seems even more imperative to include various voices and viewpoints in our collections and for our students.
Profile Image for Rachael.
502 reviews84 followers
June 30, 2020
If kids can understand it, we can too. Let's all learn to be anti-racist together because BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Another offering from Audible's "Hear My Story" selection. This is very pertinent given recent events with some good messages about acceptance and confronting stereotypes of all types. Race issues are not a taboo or forbidden topic and we should talk about it. Also, if everyone was a lot nicer to each other, the world would be a better place.
Profile Image for Carla.
6,135 reviews136 followers
September 28, 2018
Unfortunately, this is a much needed book in our world right now. It tries to explain to children about the shooting of an unarmed black man. The parents of a white child and of a black child each explain to their children about the history of racism, slavery and how people are unfairly treated based upont he colour of their skin or their names. In one family a teenage brother also shared his ideas, which show us that there is much work to be done. The idea is to try and teach them to change this pattern and unfairness. In the book, the children pair up to help a new child feel welcome in their school. This child is named Omad. This is also timely as there are so many refugees in both Canada and the U.S. and are often targeted as terrorists. Even though the book is explaining the shooting of a black man, it is able to be used to show racism about any group. What a wonderful book to read to children in middle grades, especially when doing a unit on Social Justice. The youth will change the world and this is a good start to education them about the injustices that occur. This is not a book I would read to young children, I would use it with children in junior grades and up. The publisher, Magination Press, generously provided me with a copy of this book to read. The rating, opinions and ideas are my own.
Profile Image for Aliza Werner.
1,044 reviews90 followers
September 29, 2018
Such a timely and important topic, but this story was so heavy handed and drowning in dialogue. Something I can’t get out of my mind is the way the white mother and black mother responded to each of their children’s questions about a police shooting. White mom: “It was a mistake.” Black mom: “What he did was wrong.” Now the white Mom goes on to give an education on racism, so I was surprised that she characterized the shooting as a “mistake”. I wouldn’t have expected her to be so lenient in her words, which allows the officer to be a little less guilty in her eyes. The black mom doesn’t mince her words, letting her son know that a black man was killed and that it is an injustice. The burden of confronting racial injustice shouldn’t just be on the shoulders of those who already bear its weight.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,789 reviews63 followers
March 10, 2018
Trigger warning! If you are a white snowflake who uses the hashtag #AllLivesMatter or if you ignore the systemic racism in our society, you will probably be triggered by this book.

This book doesn’t pull any punches - especially for a children’s book! Recommended reading. We need a fair and just society, and we won’t have it unless we’re all fighting for it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Magination Press for a copy in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Angela.
Author 4 books20 followers
June 27, 2018
This book was excellent in identifying and discussing racial injustice with kids. The back matter that provides helpful conversation starters and answers questions kids of both color and non-color may have about injustice and their own identity was so expertly thought out and presented.
Profile Image for Sarah Krajewski.
1,043 reviews
December 6, 2018
*3.5 stars*
The best part of this book was the section in the back with additional resources. I loved the premise, but it’s a better teaching tool than story.
Profile Image for ashes ➷.
924 reviews78 followers
July 19, 2022
Picked this up out of genuine interest and it's pretty much what it purports to be-- a children's picture book about racial injustice, specifically the police shootings of Black men. It does a good job of generally discussing the subject in a child-friendly way from the perspectives of a white and Black family, IMO, so the only real concern I have is that children simply may not be interested in reading an Educational™ picture book, and may sniff out the intent to Teach Them Something instantly. The book takes itself very seriously, which is visible from the cover to the final page. There's no way necessarily to get around this, so I'm moreso just wondering to what extent this will really "work" as it's designed: to be read to children as an engaging way to explain racial justice.

With that said, I don't personally have children, so I was thinking more from a POV of my childhood self and working with kids. I would definitely be interested in hearing from parents who have read this book in full to their children, because it looks great.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,872 reviews292 followers
July 15, 2020
A police officer shot and killed a black man. The members of white family discuss together what happened; the members of a black family discuss together what happened. Ideas are shared in the families about how to take action to make things better in the future. When an unjust situation arises at school, the children from the families are able to take action and make things better. The back of the book has an extensive note to parents and caregivers, offering information and ideas for talking to children when situations of racial injustice occur. The book is published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association, and the authors are all psychologists who have worked together for twenty years at Emory University School of Medicine.
Profile Image for James Kennedy Public Library.
163 reviews4 followers
June 23, 2023
This is a great book to ease into conversations with your kids about racial injustice. Especially if you live in a town, or near a town, where something has happened that has been all over the news. We want to protect our children from knowing about bad things that happen but we can't. And arming them with knowledge is much better than telling them (falsely) that everything is just fine especially when they are hearing rumors and bits of information from other sources. The simple, practical instructions the kids get from their parents on how they can do something that seems small to help change things right here, right now is right on point. And applies to the adults too!
Profile Image for Faith.
674 reviews3 followers
May 22, 2018
This is a timely book aimed at children between 4 and 8 years of age. Immediately we learn of a police officer who has shot and killed a black man, wrongly suspecting that the victim was holding a weapon.

A young white girl comes home from school, having picked up some of the shooting details, and she processes the news with her parents. They share some of the history of discrimination and prejudice that people of color have faced in our country as well as demonstrating empathy and natural next steps.

Then the attention shifts to a young black boy having similar conversations with his parents, whose emotions are understandably raw and frustrated ("'I'm mad that we're still treated poorly sometimes, but I can use my anger to make things better,' said his father. 'Black people have a lot of power if we work together to make changes.'")

Both young children return to school with new knowledge of how to change the status quo. When a new student begins at their school from the Middle East with only a limited grasp of the English language, other students keep their distance but Josh and Emma are given an opportunity to reach out and both make him feel welcome. We end the story with hope that with knowledge and intentional actions, there can be continued progress in the future.

At the close of the book there is a note for parents/adults that offers additional advice and resources. This extended section will be especially valuable to parents and teachers having these conversations for the first time. The sample questions and answers are well thought out and researched and the dialogues explain gently but clearly how to model these conversations well.
Profile Image for Ana.
100 reviews55 followers
June 12, 2018
Do you have kids aged 4-8, or even older? If you do, you need this book.
This is a book parents require, to explain the racial violence and injustice that is so frequently seen on social media or even in the neighborhood.

The story starts with a police shooting where an unarmed black man is killed. Two children ask their families why it happened: the girl is white, the boy is black. So we get two different points of view and distinct emotions. But they both share the feeling of injustice.

The historical roots of racism that start with slavery are explained in a way that children can easily grasp. Parents teach the children empathy, tolerance, and pride in one's color and race. They show the need to fight prejudice and exclusion.

Next day, this girl and this boy, who are friends at school, proceed by showing kindness and helping a new student of Muslim descent.

The authors are all psychologists who have worked with children and families. They give a precious resource for parents and teachers to use in opening up and making easier the conversation with children on the ongoing and tragic issue of racism in America.

You can find a "Note to Parents and Caregivers" in the end, with conversation guides and sample dialogues, child-friendly vocabulary and a list of related resources.

This is a book of the utmost importance for the new generations so that this sad violence pattern based on racism can end with them. This book is a commendable work.

I received this book as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Aimee.
416 reviews8 followers
June 7, 2018
Equally good for both children and parents.

For parents:

In addition to the book itself providing a great tool for parents for starting a conversation with children the back of the book has information geared toward parents preparing for the inevitable conversation that will result from reading the book to their offspring. These resources include:

• Benefits of having this type of conversation with children.
• Suggestions/guidelines for having the conversation.
• Child friendly vocabulary and definitions.
• Sample questions and dialog.

For the children this an attention-grabbing book beautifully illustrated and with thought provoking text that will gently nudge children to think about race, fairness, and the world around us. Hopefully it will make them more cognitive to the feelings of others and impact their interactions with people.

Thanks so much to Netgalley, the publishers, and the author for providing me with a copy for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jodi Geever.
1,240 reviews5 followers
July 19, 2020
I’m giving this book 2 stars because it includes further resources.

Other than that feature, I was VERY DISAPPOINTED with this book. It reads much more like a textbook—and one for aspiring child psychologists rather than children themselves. Websites are read out, to “slash dot aspx” and the “story” which acts as the catalyst for the subsequent discussion occupies only a small fraction of the text. Don’t waste your time, don’t bore your kids, don’t read this book.

Start instead with the book I am Brown, and ask your librarian for other books you can read and discuss with your children when you want to talk about difference.
Profile Image for Briana McMurry.
6 reviews1 follower
June 7, 2018
My daughter and I both loved this book. It is informative and addresses social/racism issues in a way that kids can easily understand. I think it is important to talk to your kids about how people of color are treated differently and this book is a great way to start the conversation. The guide at the end is extremely helpful when addressing some of your children’s questions. Highly recommend. Every parent should be reading books like this to their children.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,206 reviews123 followers
May 8, 2018
The authors did a fantastic job putting some very hard topics into language that kids will understand. My son is still a little young for this book (I believe the recommended age range is 4-8) but I'm glad to have a copy of this for when he's developmentally ready to understand. It covers the topics of race, slavery, police violence, and prejudice all in a succinct and clear way.
Profile Image for Marie Celano.
57 reviews10 followers
September 2, 2018
This is a timely compelling children’s book. It gives an inside look at conversations from different generations and ethnic backgrounds around the topic of racial injustice. I especially thought the teenagers’ perspective were spot on. Great tool for having discussions with children around the topic of racial inequality.
5,212 reviews73 followers
September 2, 2018
Unfortunately, a needed book. Tries to make a police shooting of a black man understandable to children, with parents (one white and one black) explaining the history of racism - slavery and fear and how they might change the unfair pattern of how people are treated. I did like that the new child they both stick up for is named Omad.
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