Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book


Rate this book
A picture book about colorism, self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe's skin is the color of midnight. She's darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school.

All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister.

Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

48 pages

First published October 15, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Lupita Nyong'o

2 books143 followers
Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan actress and producer. Her first feature film role was in the film 12 Years a Slave, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as multiple accolades, including the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Critics’ Choice Award, the Independent Spirit Award, and the NAACP Award. She has since starred in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ryan Coogler’s record-breaking box office hit Black Panther, and in Jordan’s Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film Us. Nyong’o earned a Tony nomination for her Broadway debut in Danai Gurira’s play Eclipsed. She lives in Brooklyn.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
7,521 (73%)
4 stars
2,065 (20%)
3 stars
487 (4%)
2 stars
67 (<1%)
1 star
52 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,085 reviews
Profile Image for Calista.
4,062 reviews31.3k followers
December 30, 2019
Wonderful! This is one of my top 5 new 2019 picture books of the year. This is a little biographical we find out in the author’s note.

Sulwe has dark skin like midnight while the rest of her family has lighter tones and her sister has a golden tone to her skin. Sulwe prays for lighter skin and the ability to make friends and not be teased. Her mama tells her the most beautiful story or legend of daylight and nighttime. The people love the sun and hate the night, until nighttime leaves and then daylight becomes too much. The story is about balance and both sides being respected.

This is about self-love and self-empowerment. It’s beautiful artwork and a beautiful story that touched my heart. I want to own this book.

The nephew enjoyed the story about day and night and he thought the story was ok. He gave this 3 stars. The niece read this too after I told her she had to read it and she thought this was a great story and she gave this 4 stars. The nephew did ask why people’s skin can be different colors and I had to talk about pigmentation in the skin and how genes can mix and match.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,206 reviews19.7k followers
May 9, 2023
“Sulwe was born the colour of midnight.”

I read books like these and I think about how on earth some people have the strength to be parents, to choose to become one.

Short but beautifully hopeful and impactful. A young child is being taught the lesson of beauty in all its forms since she’s questioning her own, in particular her skin colour. She’s being taught that beauty is more than what’s on the outer, that it’s only one part of you, light doesn’t exist without darkness, you are worthy, you matter, you matter.

This had me tearing up and if it was longer, I know I would’ve been bawling my eyes out.

Emotions are the worst.
Profile Image for Christina Marie.
418 reviews368 followers
October 15, 2019
Of COURSE I loved this. The story was so perfect for the mind of a young dark skinned girl. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and anyone that experiences them will be able to appreciate them.

I’m so honored to have experienced this story. Even as the 32 year old that I am. As a young black girl, while I’m not the darkest, I certainly wasn’t the lightest. And I was outside a lot, so I was darker as a kid. I remember the names “moose”, “monkey”. I remember running to my mom when some boy in my class said I looked like a moose, during our annual Halloween fair. I remember my mom telling me not to listen.

So I think about the young girls of today, the brown skin girls that are constantly being told that they are ugly. They are dark. They resemble animals.

I’m so glad this story exists for children today. Even though, I’m not a young girl anymore, I still appreciated this story. It spoke to the young black girl that I once was, the young black girl that still lives inside me. She’s grateful.
Profile Image for LaDonna.
174 reviews2,451 followers
December 29, 2019

POWERFUL —seems too easy of a word to describe the debut children’s book by Lupita Nyong’o. Yet, powerful, may not do it enough justice. Colorism is an extremely challenging subject to broach and tackle, especially among people of color. However, Sulwe approaches the issue with such honesty and candor that it invites a much needed discussion.

Brightness is not in your skin...Brightness is just who you are”

With the beautiful illustrations, provided by Vashti Harrison, Sulwe speaks to every woman of color who has felt marginalized or consumed by doubt. Although marketed as a children’s book, this book is ageless!!!

In sharing her story Ms. Nyong’o speaks to the Sulwe in each of us. ”Don’t wait for anyone to tell you what is beautiful. Know that you are beautiful because you choose to be”.


I have to share the reactions of my students, after reading this book to them.

To paraphrase what I already knew, Ms. Nyong’o has written a book that speaks to all, regardless of race, age and gender. Boys and girls alike, young and old, walked away being touched by this story. I saw some students sit up straighter and smile because they saw Sulwe in themselves. I heard others vow that they would never treat anyone differently because of skin color. “We must fill each other’s buckets everyday”. And, yet, others, talked about never fearing the dark again. “Night is beautiful. It’s the only time we can see stars”. Even my middle school counterparts shared this book with students. HOW AWESOME!!!
Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
August 14, 2020
Fridays are my most hectic day of the week with cooking, baking, cleaning, and other preparations. I rarely have time to read so lately I have chosen to use the day for poetry and children’s books. Recently I noticed a new children’s book by Star Wars actress Lupita Nyong’o on my library’s web site. Illustrated by Caldecott winner Vashti Harrison with a sparkling purple cover, Sulwe stands out even for the youngest readers. With Caldecott potential illustrations, I could tell that Sulwe’s story would be a winning one.

Sulwe is as dark as night. Her sister and parents are lighter skinned, and her sister has lots of friends at school. Sulwe is always on the perimeter looking in at the rest of her kids. One day she came home from school and used an eraser and her mother’s makeup to rub her blackness out. As this was not successful, Sulwe told her mother that she did not want to return to school the next day. That night, a shooting star visits Sulwe in her dreams and takes her on a journey into night to see why darkness is important. Using magical realism that adult readers would appreciate, Nyong’o relates a story of the symbiotic relationship between the light sun and the dark moon.

Today humanity has been told that people of all colors matter. Sulwe, representing the blackest of people, is shown how when the sun banished the moon, earth was one continuous day. There was no sleep and people wanted their dreams of night back. Day journeyed to night and said “I missed you” and the feeling was mutual. Sun needed moon’s shadows for day to function, and moon benefitted from the light of stars that are only seen in the dark of night. Even though Sulwe might not appreciate her darkness now, it is important, just as lightness is.

Nyong’o tells that Sulwe’s story is her own. She was among the darkest of the children in her school and at some points had few friends. Her mother tenderly related that it is what is inside, her qualities and abilities, that are important, not her skin color, which should be blind to everyone. Today, Nyong’o is a successful actress and now writer. Sulwe is a timely book that can easily be discussed in elementary school classrooms. With a discussion of a parable and all people mattering, it is even timely for the inclusion of all children during back to school week. How could one not fall in love with Sulwe after hearing her story and viewing Harrison’s lovely illustrations. Such a refreshing book for a busy afternoon.

4 🌞 🌚 ✨ stars
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
December 2, 2019
My family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books every year. This is book #19 (of 20) of 2019, and we liked it. It was written by Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o and digitally illustrated (in her second nominated book this year), Vashti Harrison. The story is about Sulwe, who grows up wanting to be lighter-toned as her mother and sisters are. So it’s about colorism and self-esteem, including a dream/fantasy sequence about Night and Day that helps Sulwe believe in herself

Harry (15, today, his birthday!): 4. Inspiring, and I liked how her mom comforts her. I like the story of Night and Day to encourage Sulwe.

Tara: 3.5. I liked the story within the story about Night and Day more than the story about the girl. N not bad, though.

Rosanne (Grandma): 3. The eyes in the illustrations are wonderful!

Dave: 2.5/3. I actually did not like the Night and Day fantasy sequence as a way of helping resolve the struggle Sulwe has with herself, but it is in keeping with the dreamy, dramatic atmospheric digital illustration style adopted here that I actually thought was just okay, thought I thought the art was better than the writing. The theme of colorism reminds me of the similar theme in Spike Lee’s School Daze and the YA novel by Sharon Flake, The Skin I’m In.
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews114 followers
November 29, 2019
"Brightness is not in your skin...Brightness is just who you are”

Sulwe is darker than everybody else around her. Darker than her sister, parents and the kids at school. Sulwe does not like bbeing different or standing out. She longs to be lighter so she can be beautiful too. Her mother assures Sulwe that she is already beautiful but it will take a special journey for her to believe it and embrace it.

Lupita Nyong'o is the author of this gorgeous book. Captivating and strong this is a great debut as author for Nyong'o. The illustrations are just too beautiful and the message is one that needs to be said as much as possible. Though the target audience is children, this book appeals to everybody. The book deals with colorism and loving yourself with finesse and charm. Empowering and powerful, the words on these pages celebrate beauty in its full splendor. Though a simple concept, this is an impacting message. A wonderful book overall.
Profile Image for Olivia.
163 reviews742 followers
February 15, 2020
I will never get over the beauty that is Vashti Harrison's work. She brings beauty and magic and and dream-like quality to her illustrations that is stunning and gives the story so much life.

Some of these spreads I wouldn't mind blowing up as full posters and displaying as art pieces.

The story navigates the struggles of colorism through the eyes of a sweet little dark skinned black girl in such a meaningful and poignant way. A good read for anyone- pick it up!
Profile Image for Renee.
129 reviews10 followers
October 18, 2019
I bought this for my mother and sister to read to their young students, but I wanted to read it too! This book is perfect for helping young kids find the beauty in their dark skin. And the illustrations are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a children’s book.
Profile Image for Nicole M. M..
Author 1 book290 followers
September 20, 2019
This review and many more can be found on my blog: Feed Your Fiction Addiction

This book is stunning in just about every way imaginable. The story follows little Sulwe, who struggles to see her own beauty because of the darkness of her skin. Sulwe wishes she could look more like her parents, more like her sister, more like the other boys and girls at her school. Like most children, she doesn't want to feel different---and her dark skin doesn't make her feel special or unique, no matter what her mother might tell her. It takes a beautiful fable about day and night to make her see how she brings beauty to the world. As a reader, your heart goes out to Sulwe, and it soars with hers as she discovers her true worth.

The depth and detail of every illustration in this book is incredible. I'm amazed at how well Vashti Harrison was able to use such a lush and extensive palette when many of the images are (necessarily) dark; in fact, the darker images were my favorites---I so appreciated the subtlety of the details. The illustrations of Sulwe's trip into the stars and the fable of day and night truly took my breath away.

This story is both important and utterly beautiful; what a wonderful combination!!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Profile Image for Deborah.
736 reviews54 followers
November 15, 2019
Gorgeously illustrated. Sulwe, the color of midnight, believes she is too dark compared to her family of dusk, dawn, and high noon, and yearns to be fair, beautiful, and befriended. Her mother tells her, "When you are darkest is when you are the most beautiful. It's when you are the most you." She learns to accept and celebrate the darkness and lightness within and without. Empowering book for a child unhappy with the color of his or her skin.
Profile Image for Tonja Drecker.
Author 3 books191 followers
October 20, 2019
This is a beautiful book and tale, which takes a problem many children can relate to and then sweeps it off into the world of imagination and dreams in a lovely fairy tale.

While Sulwe believes every single one of her family members is beautiful, she's convinced that her own darker skin makes her uglier than them. The teasing and taunting at school doesn't help matters. Sulwe tries everything she can to make her skin lighter, but nothing works. Mother, of course, tries to explain how gorgeous she really is, but Sulwe isn't convinced. And then, a shooting star enters her bedroom, and she's swept away on an amazing story, which might help show what true beauty is.

Already the cover grabbed my attention with the lovely big eyed girl and the magical stars. And that's what this read is—magical. The story starts with a very modern day setting and family, allowing the listener/reader to get to know Sulwe and sympathize with her plight. While not every listener will have the same problem as Sulwe, the idea of not fitting in or not liking a part of oneself is something many listeners can relate to. And Sulwe's desire to change just touches the heart. It's so bitter sweet and sad, making the reader wish they could reach out and hug her.

After this introduction, the story takes a sudden shift into the world of fantasy and lore. It jerks a bit, but the tale of the two sisters is so wonderfully done, that the reader/listener is quickly swept away. It's beautiful and presents the message loud and clear. True beauty isn't always immediately recognized, but that doesn't lessen it. The most lovely beauty comes from within and is as bright as a star.

The illustrations are simply a treat. Not only are Sulwe and her family well depicted, but the flight into the folk tale is as wondrous as the story itself. It's the type of book listeners will want to hear again and again, and not easily forget the tale after the last page has been read. In other words, it's a lovely read young listeners (and older ones) are sure to enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy and enjoyed this one so much that I wanted to leave my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for DeeReads.
2,256 reviews
November 7, 2019
REREAD: This book written by actress, Lupita Nyong'o gives an uplifting tale of a little girl named Sulwe,"born the color of midnight" learning how to accept the color of her dark skin... truly a beautiful picture book!

"Sulwe dreamed of being the same color as her sister. She wanted real friends too." So she got the biggest eraser she could find and tried to rub off a layer or two of her darkness. That hurt!"
"Dear Lord, Why do I look like midnight when my mother looks like dawn?"

"Brightness is not in your skin ... Brightness is just who you are."

"Real beauty comes from your mind and your heart. It begins with how you see yourself, not how others see you."

What a beautiful and inspiring story for any POC kid or even adults learning to love yourself, your color, inside and out! #colorismisreal
Profile Image for Lata.
3,765 reviews206 followers
October 21, 2019
Stunningly beautiful illustrations accompany a deceptively simple story of a girl with skin much darker than everyone else in her family, and who feels ashamed for it. After a wonderful visit by a shooting star, she comes to see the value and beauty in herself and her dark skin.
The idea that being dark means one is inherently bad or stupid is incredibly damaging, and this lovely little story shows young children feeling the same way as Sulwe that there is beauty within oneself, regardless of skin colour.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,538 reviews198 followers
November 17, 2019
Goodreads Choice Awards Project: Read as many of the Best Picture Book nominees as possible. 6 to go!

Terrific sentiment and beautiful art, but the story-within-a-story lost me (it's basically a dream sequence, which I hate), so the change in the girl's thinking in the end didn't land as well for me as it should have.
Profile Image for Mariah Roze.
1,029 reviews933 followers
February 7, 2020
I read this book to my students today. I work with mostly Asian students so I was really interested to see what they would think. The students were all 4th graders and the book went over their head. They didn't understand why she was riding on a star or why she didn't like looking black like the night.

I really enjoyed the book and thought it was a great way to teach kids about loving themselves no matter what they look like and what others around them look like. However, I think the way that the author teaches that lesson might be hard to understand.

"Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything."
Profile Image for Marzie.
1,133 reviews92 followers
January 1, 2020
With gorgeous illustrations, Sulwe, a name from the Luo word for star, encourages children who are uncomfortable with the color of their skin to love themselves as they are and to find beauty within themselves. This is a beautiful children's picture book about colorism.
Profile Image for Alfredo.
386 reviews514 followers
January 10, 2020
Uma história sobre uma garotinha descobrindo a beleza de ser quem ela é.

O livro de estreia de Lupita Nyong'o é extremamente necessário para que crianças se vejam representadas e percebam que sua cor não é motivo de vergonha, mas de orgulho.

As ilustrações são belíssimas!
Profile Image for Tyler Gray.
Author 2 books225 followers
May 8, 2023
Don't mind me. I'm just crying from this picture book. At 34 years old. No, I don't have children.
This is a wonderful picture book with a much needed message.
It was the afterword that made me go from teary to tears falling down my cheeks. I am white, so I do not know what it's like to be teased or worse for the color of my skin. I am however, disabled and deformed and I know what it's like to be called ugly and be teased for those reasons. I still struggle to see myself as (physically) anything but ugly. I know this book wasn't made for me but there was a message in it I needed to hear all the same. So many people do.
Profile Image for Licha.
732 reviews105 followers
December 18, 2019
The cover on this book is beautiful. The illustrations inside are more of the same beautiful artwork. I couldn't take my eyes off of them. There is also a gorgeous picture of Lupita Nyong'o in the back. This is her story about dealing with accepting the color of her skin.

I picked up this book based on an interview I saw where she tells about not being aware of her skin color until her sister, who is lighter skin-colored than her, was born. She started noticing how others around her would compliment her little sister, telling her how beautiful she was. And just like that Lupita started to feel like she didn't measure up to this standard of beauty because she was darker-skinned.

This story made me so sad. Sulwe, our main little girl here tugged at my heart. She was so beautiful, but because she had darker skin than the rest of the family she felt like no one liked her or wanted her. Her mother tells her the story of two sisters, one who was as light as the day and the other as dark as the night. The two sisters are beautiful, but Night feels like she must hide away, until someone shows her how beautiful she is and how needed and important her presence is.

From the Author's Note:

...it is important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror, but what is even more important is working on being beautiful inside. That means being kind to yourself and to others. That is the beauty that truly shines through.
Profile Image for Jillian Heise.
2,319 reviews482 followers
September 17, 2019
Beautiful book & Vashti Harrison's endearing characters illustrations which elevate to stunning in the mythology section. Will recommend it and buy it. Just wish author/editor had trusted it enough to let it end on the second to last page which felt more natural and less didactic of an ending than the last line on the last page.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
October 17, 2019
Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o makes her children's book debut with Sulwe, a lovely picture-book about a young girl who struggles with issues of self worth because of her dark skin. Wishing she were lighter skinned like her mother and father, convinced she would have more friends if she was more like her sister, Sulwe attempts to lighten her skin herself, until her mother steps in and reminds her that her name means "star," and that she has a light all her own. But what does that mean? When a real star shows up and takes her on a fantastical voyage, sharing the story of the sisters Day and Night, Sulwe finally begins to gain some perspective...

Although often skeptical when it comes to celebrity-authored children's books, which I frequently find to be rather lackluster, I am sometimes pleased to be proven wrong, discovering a gem in the process. Sulwe is such a gem, pairing an engaging, poignant and ultimately heartwarming story from Nyong'o with luminously beautiful artwork from illustrator Vashti Harrison. As the author's note makes plain, this is a story rooted in the Lupita Nyong'o's own life experiences, and that really shines through, giving the story an undeniable emotional depth and immediacy. Highly recommended to anyone looking for children's stories about colorism and self esteem.
Profile Image for Renée | Book Girl Magic.
93 reviews215 followers
November 25, 2019
Just finished reading this to Tenley and it is absolutely the most beautiful book! Not only were the illustrations breathtaking, but the message of loving the brown skin you’re in was just as beautiful too. Had no idea what the book was about when I originally received it but wanted it specifically because I knew Vashti did the illustrations and who doesn't love Lupita? A great message on how beautiful dark skin is and how much light(ness) can't survive without darkness. Left my little brown skinned girl feeling beautiful about the skin she's in!

Highly recommend. Would make great Christmas gifts for the little ones.
Profile Image for frau.gedankenreich.
232 reviews86 followers
August 28, 2021
Schönstes Kinderbuch aller Zeiten; innen wie außen. Wer braucht Deko im Regal wenn es solch wundervolle Cover gibt 🥰
Profile Image for Sana.
1,091 reviews960 followers
June 9, 2020
Day told her sister, 'When you are darkest is when you are most beautiful. It is when you are most you.'


Never have I ever read a more precious picture book with some of the most stunning art. Everything about Sulwe is so important and I want every single person to read this. I hugely admire Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti Harrison for their powerful storytelling and illustrations
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,085 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.