Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. He is the host of the new action podcast, Be Antiracist.
Dr. Kendi is the author of many highly acclaimed books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He had also produced five straight #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist, Antiracist Baby, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored by Jason Reynolds. In 2020, Time magazine named Dr. Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the Genius Grant.
A real disappointment and missed opportunity. This was a chance to write a positive book about acceptance for young children....unfortunately this isn't it. The first requirement of a book for toddlers is that it arouses curiosity and entertains. I'm afraid this fails spectacularly on both counts.
The language is complex, the rhyme poor, and the concepts way beyond a toddlers understanding (given the style of the pictures and the fact that its a board book, you would assume it's for the 18 months to 3 years group). Any 2-3 year old will wander off to the playdough long before the necessary parental explanations of racial injustice required to understand the vocabulary are finished. It reads like a dreary rallying cry for angry millennials, a vanity project published only so someone could tick a box. I hope it doesn't use up a publishing opportunity for someone who could do justice to this subject.
But the main problem with this book is that conceptually it does more to divide than unite. How can anyone set out to write a book for toddlers with the intention of making some of its tiny listeners feel guilt and shame (for nothing they have done wrong), and others feel wronged (for nothing they've experienced), before they barely know what a duck or a bike or a picnic are?
It attempts to sensitise toddlers to the political ramifications that only adults attach to skin colour, before they've even learned to walk. It doesn't call for love or acceptance or standing up for what is right, but presents the world as a scary battleground in which they have to fight an invisible evil force called racism - a pretty difficult idea to get across to a two year old, and sadly Mr Kendi does nothing to help define it. The presumption seems to be that every baby is racist until taught not to be, when the opposite is the reality - it is racism and division which are taught - and I worry that is exactly what this book, if unwittingly, achieves.
Anyone who has actually met a toddler (and I'm not convinced Mr. Kendi has) knows they have a natural sense of justice and know when it is breached. This topic could have been successfully tackled in so many positive ways, but the world Mr Kendi presents is a scary place of raised fists and multiple wrongs; at best sad, but mostly damaging. If you want to teach your children about acceptance, inclusivity, and standing up against racial injustice, there are many more positive ways to do it than this book.
Antiracist Baby is not the worst thing you could read, if you want to indoctrinate your infant into a biased way of thought. You could try Das Kapital. Or the Communist Manifesto. Or Mein Kampf. Or White Fragility. Or Rules for Radicals. There are lots of other examples of propaganda and wrong-thought you could also choose from to really mess up the way your baby thinks. At least this one has illustrations of adorable babies making the black power fist. So there's that.
The idea that "Babies are taught to be racist or antiracist- there's no neutrality" is the repugnant new ideology making the rounds amongst people who seem to not know better. Adults who read How to Be an Anti-Racist (same author) and for some reason can't see through its flaws in reasoning, will no doubt want to expose impressionable children to this brainwashing so they can feel all woke and superior too!
There are SO many great books out there to teach children how to be NOT racist, which is a different and better thing than being an Anti-Racist. Go buy one of those.
Skip this book and just raise your kids to be kind to everyone, not going around calling ALL people racists, which is one of the tenets of Anti-Racist (not non-racist) thought.
I wish I could give this negative stars. This book is not as bad as I expected it to be. Ibrahim Kendi’s views seem much more racist in his adult commentary than in his children’s book. I have plenty of issues with the contents of this book though. For instance, The author calls white people “colonizers” (on Twitter) yet says (in this book) that we should celebrate the diversity of all people. Those are two conflicting ideas. In the Q&A at the end of the book, he discusses how we automatically envision white people in places of authority. The first time that I was able to cast a vote, I voted for a man named Barack Obama. Most of the politicians in my local government are black. Most of the people in charge of my local school system (a system in which I taught) are black. I’m confused as to why we aren’t able to see black people in authoritative roles. Is it because we aren’t looking? He is a professor and a famous author. Does that not mean anything? I’m black, but I’ll avoid teaching Kendi’s ideas to my children. This book and the rest of his material will only teach them how to be racist but think that they are fighting for a good cause.
Folks always say there’s no handbook for parenting. On June 16, #AntiracistBaby hits bookshelves and parents everywhere will have access to a handbook for raising not only an antiracist baby, but also a legit human being. @ibramxk has not only created the perfect rhyming guide for raising your baby, he’s simplifying being actively antiracist for the adult folks who seem hell-bent on being offended by the term antiracist. Small, but powerful, this book belongs on every nursery bookshelf, but even more, its words must be in practice in every baby as we strive for a greater humanity. In sum, #AntiracistBaby is the one board book even adults without children should buy. 👶🏻👶🏼👶🏽👶🏾👶🏿
Thank you to Penguin, Kokila, and Edelweiss for an eGalley.
If you're looking for a tool to help you indoctrinate your kids into a worldview of racist white-hating woke intersectional progressivism then this is the book for you!
Filled with a general sense of hopelessness and dread, this book will make sure to stoke that white guilt and/or anti-white hatred in the parent while teaching toddlers that character is really secondary to skin colour.
If there was a way to make this review ZERO stars I would, it is much much more insidious than I can explain here, the best short comparison I can make is that this is the communist manifesto for kids.
Each year my family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books. Antiracist Baby is book #1 (of 20) of 2020.
Hank (14): 4 stars. Great rhymes, cute baby.
Harry (15): 2.5 stars. I liked the rhymes. Makes a good point.
Tara: 3 stars. Not really a kids' book--to many big words--but maybe the information for parents in the appendix is useful. And I usually don't like rhymes but these I didn't mind so much.
Dave: 2 stars. I think of myself as an anti-racist. Which as a white person in America means in part that I own up to the ways I have been racist and remain complicit in racism. And then try my hardest not to do that anymore, for starters. I opened my fall class, after a summer of continuing police shootings of black citizens, protests (some of which I participated in), with a unit on Black Lives Matter, reading The Hate U Give and James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and so on. And I just read The Oldest Student, another Goodreads Picturebook 2020 nominee about Mary Walker, who as a slave had been denied the right to read.
Now, The Oldest Student is as I see it an anti-racist picturebook (for older children), but Antiracist Baby is not in any way intended to be a children’s picturebook. It’s a didactic book for parents that only features people of color (except one white lesbian apparently in a relationship with a woman of color). I get that point about representation but I feel that white straight people have to have a role in the process of antiracism, too.
I hesitated about giving this book two stars in that it is highly rated and includes five stars from my friend Rich Farrell, who heard a webinar about the book and liked the conversation. Maybe if I had participated in the webinar I would have liked it more. The advice in this book often comes in sorta vague bullet points such as Grow to be Antiracist, Talk about Race, Open Your Eyes to all Skin Colors, Confess When You are Racist, Celebrate Differences, and so on. I just prefer stories to preaching, having been raised Dutch Reformed and forced until I was eighteen to attend two church services every Sunday with long sermons. I prefer stories as antiracist tools.
WARNING: THIS BOOK MIGHT BE FOR KIDS, MY REVIEW IS NOT. STRONG LANGUAGE AND A BIT OF DARK HUMOR AHEAD!
This book... it’s actually a real thing... it’s even an award winner... and it actually exists... it isn’t just a joke... I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.
What’s it about? This book shows antiracist baby’s 9 steps to not being a racist... and they’re executed terribly.
Why it gets 1-star: So I typically prefer when picture books have a simple but fun story, this has no story whatsoever. The entire premise of this book is only that “some people are racist assholes, don’t be one” (worded in a more kid friendly way) which to me at least should seem like a “well gee, no shit” sorta thing for anyone who can even understand what the hell racism even is. When the book is plotless and not something a kid that this is geared towards could understand, it feels utterly pointless and stupid to me. The art is hideous. This is by far some of the absolute worst art I’ve ever seen in a picture book. Not to mention that the illustration sometimes doesn’t even match the page (example: a baby dancing around random ass floating stars when the book is talking about confessing when you do something racist... ya know because that is somehow relevant to the part of the book it’s in)
This book is predictable. I know that complaint might seem a bit stupid but it’s true. This book tries to rhyme but the flow of the attempted rhyme fails miserably. I see a lot of reviews say that this is a very poorly written picture book and I would agree, largely because of the bad flow to the writing. The message would be nice as I think most people with even okay thinking skills can agree that racism sucks ass but the message is something that little kids wouldn’t understand. I mean, this book would mostly appeal to ages 0-6, the age where most kids are still learning the alphabet, how to spell their name and can’t count to 50, do you really expect them to even comprehend what the fuck racism is? I understand that you should teach kids what it is and teach them that it’s bad but wait until they can understand this kinda thing (it was explained to me when learning about slavery in history so I was probably in 3rd grade or something like that, that seems like a reasonable age). I mean, I would maybe understand this being approached in a middle grade book or something but a book that would only appeal to kids who don’t understand it and be too babyish for a kid who’s mind is developed enough to start learning about this shit... it just doesn’t work and it is laughably ridiculous.
Overall: This book is stupid and genius at the same time. See, as ridiculous and terribly executed as this book is, the author is actually pretty damn smart for how he takes an idea that is just completely nonsensical and it actually sold a large number of copies (for real, if you told me 5 years ago that there would be an award-winning picture book called Antiracist Baby, I would have thought you were talking about a joke in a new episode of Family Guy or South Park). This book exists because of one word. No, not “antiracism”, it’s “money”. This book will not entertain kids in the slightest, hell it’s not something kids will understand but Karen will still eagerly run to the book store, buy it and force her kids to listen to her read it so she can tell everyone on Facebook “I am totes a good parent because I already teach my kids not to be racist with this book. When I went to book club (AKA wine club where they don’t actually read any books, they just have an excuse to bitch at each other) I heard that Susan read her kid Where The Wild Things Are so her kid’s already hearing that it’s fun to dress in a big white outfit. Have fun with your Klan baby, Susan! (Insert shitty minion meme or wine decor quote here)”. I will also ask you to remember that as she’s posting that one of her kids just somehow stumbled across snuff films after being left on the fucking internet of all things unsupervised and the baby is sticking a fork in a power outlet but Karen doesn’t give a shit because she’s on her 9th glass of wine and obviously must be a good parent if she bought this book. I can’t even blame Kendi for writing this because it’s obvious that this idea as stupid as it is, would make money so of course he’ll jump on the opportunity to write such an easy to come up with picture book idea that will get him piles of money and even a few awards despite the book being ridiculous. Genius business move and possible social experiment to see if this would actually get good reception and sales but an asinine, terribly executed book.
I picked this book up from the library. It has been on lists out there, so I picked gave it a try.
This is not a story, this is 9 steps in rhyme in ways to help a child grow up being antiracists. One of the big things they stress is to notice color. We can't pretend we don't see it. It makes us different and that's okay. We are all still people.
Everything the book has to say is great, but this is more a soapbox, or not a soapbox, but a pamphlet for growing up with acceptance. Again, this is not a story in any way. It would have been much better for kids, if those 9 steps were turned into a story. Then it would be easier for a child to understand. This is like a, well, it almost feels like propaganda.
I didn't think much of the artwork either. It's not horrible, but it felt like artwork from sunday school and the ideas felt like a weekly lesson at Sunday school. I fully agree with and support the ideas put forth, but it wasn't a whole lot of fun and not in a package I think kids will enjoy. I think this is more for adults in this time, not for kids. It's easy for adults to understand. I think the perfect person for this is someone confused about what's going on and how to change. An adult who needs simple and understandable ideas. I have a hard time thinking children will enjoy this. For kids, it should be a story. I gave it 3 stars because the information is good.
This book was such a disappointment. I was hoping for something geared towards my small children that could spark conversations or explain this topic at a kid level (something that I am terrible at), but this book was not it. It looks like a book for toddlers, but it was just super weird. The book was full of awkward rhymes with language geared towards adults (who would be better off just picking up a copy of How to be an Antiracist).
Edit: I think I’ve finally figured out what is bothering me so much about all the rave reviews for this book. I think that people are either praising it because they want to show everyone how Not Racist they are (or are afraid of being called racist), or they are doing that thing where they think that all Black people are stupid/undereducated and are giving the author patronizing kudos (like when I tell my 3 year old that her drawing of Elsa is the most amazing thing ever when it actually looks like Mrs Potatohead ykwim?).
I also want to add that if you felt the content of the book was racist/divisive, then maybe you aren’t yet ready for that message and would be more comfortable starting with something like Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race.
This is pretty cute but it's a little complicated for actual babies and toddlers with both word choice and ideas that are insufficiently concrete. On the other hand, for older kids (mine are 6 and 9) it's not in-depth enough about what the problem is or how they can address it in their own lives. However, I do I plan on using either the older version of Stamped from the Beginning or the new version (TBR) to teach my kids about racism and how to address it.
I really disliked this book. Not for its messages, which are excellent, but for its language and illustrations. I can’t imagine parents trying to engage toddlers with its convoluted rhymes and its adult verbiage. And I find the illustrations just creepy in their execution.
This book is awkward, clunky, and completely ineffective for the intended picture book audience. Even though this is designed to be a counting book with a few short statements on each page, the text is full of high-level vocabulary words, abstract concepts, and unexplained assertions. Also, even though the cover is adorable, I think that the illustrations inside are weird and unappealing, because the babies and adults have awkward proportions and look flat and unrealistic.
The only reason why I am giving this book more than a one star rating is because the author's note at the end is informative, clear, and helpful. I do not agree with all of the author's broad-brush statements, but he shares helpful talking points and tips for parents who want to discuss racial issues with their children but aren't sure where to start. I particularly appreciate his message that parents should focus on applying the adjective 'racist' to ideas, behaviors, and policies, rather than people, to help children grow and change instead of internalizing the label of 'racist' as something that is bad about them, just because they were ignorant or made a mistake.
The only audience I would ever recommend this book to would be white parents who need help and advice for how to start talking about race with their children. The main concepts here are so basic that they would not be particularly helpful to parents who have already navigated racial challenges in their own lives, and the book's only merit is in the parenting advice at the end, not the main text.
I cannot imagine trying to read this to a child. The author boiled down the subjects of lectures, books, and seminars into a handful of context-free assertions, and then wrangled them into an awkward, uneven rhyme scheme. This book reads as if someone copied down random statements from a textbook and then tried to turn them into poetry. It is truly terrible.
I agree with the author that parents should start discussing racial issues with their children early on, even before a child can fully understand the issues involved. However, when he says this at the beginning of the parents' note, it almost seems like an excuse for the lack of thought and effort that went into gearing this project towards young children's developmental stages and comprehension levels. This book is a very poor introduction that makes no effort at meeting a child where they are.
If you are acquainted with the board book market you know what I mean. There are beautiful board books out there with appealing illustrations and text that both adults and children of most ages will enjoy. Then there are the ones that are "let's review your colors/numbers/ABCs." I think there is a place for those board books. Board books that present nursery rhymes or favorite songs are also great.
But then we have books that are really just marketed to adult purchasers. BabyLit immediately comes to mind; where vocabulary is presented but there is no actual story. But "we love Books so we are going to buy this" (it's not about baby). Books where the entire story is "mommy/daddy loves you so much" (these books are the equivalent of a hallmark greeting card. Do you really need the copy in the card to deliver your message or can you come up with it on your own? There are a few that are not bad, but most of them are drivel), and, finally, books like this. The illustrations are nice, the message captures the current zeitgeist, and since anti-racist books are selling out, of course publishers want to get in on the money grab.
Don't get me wrong, the quality of execution is not bad. It's just that the style of these books, in my opinion, does not work for kids. Presenting vocabulary without a story. A didactic tone. You see it across a range of topics. This book is written to sell. If you want to educate your child on anti-racism, let them see you reading books on the topic, engage them in other communities outside your comfort zone, diversify your other children's books, and teach them to be critical readers. In spite of my rant, you may want to get this book if 1) you want to support the author, 2) you want to signal to publishers that there is a market for books like this, 3) you love the illustrations, 4) you want to send a message to others (including your kids) that this matters to you.
Brightly coloured pages with wonderful steps on how to help teach your baby (or anyone else) how to recognize and dismantle racist thoughts and actions. What a fantastic way to introduce children to bias and the power of change. I especially enjoyed the discussion bits at the back that have real world applications to try out with your wee ones.
Big, bold, and vibrant illustrations demonstrate in nine simple steps how to raise a baby to be antiracist. What a beautiful and powerful book of wisdom. If all parents read, taught, and spoke out to their children about these issues their children’s world could be transformed. We are not “better” or “worse” but “diverse.” “Celebrate our differences” as “we are all human.” Conversation suggestions and insights are included in the end. Highly recommend.
This book is such a pathetic attempt. Children are only racist if they are taught to be. Ibram is a racist himself so taking advice on racism from him is the same as taking advice on racism from a jihadist Muslim or a KKK member.
I really liked “The Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi. This is a children's book with a message of hope and the tenants of anti-racism for today and everyday. Additionally, the illustrations are gorgeous.
One criticism is that it is too advanced for a child. On the other hand, the author was using this method to get the incredibly important message across to everyone in the simplest of fashion.
At any rate, it's a solid way to start a discussion of these vital topics.
It is a good book. A child is not into it yet, writes like it is written more for me.
Antiracist Baby is a very cute introduction to toddlers about racism. The illustrations are bold and beautiful & the message behind is an important one. I can see this book being very appealing to little ones. The only thing I would add is that I wish there was more rhyming. I feel rhythm & rhyme will stick more with toddlers quickly. Over this a great book.
Thank you Kokila Publishing for gifting this ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
I truly wish I had these 9 steps when I was a kid! This needs to be added to your collection of children’s book. Racism is not inherent, IT’S TAUGHT! Use this book as a stepping stone for your baby to be better than WE are!
This book seems to be targeted at adults rather than actual babies or children, and if that's the case, I don't really think the nine steps are super actionable because they're written as little rhymes and don't convey a ton of information about how to do any of the steps. It's a good springboard for antiracist ideas, but if this book is more targeted at parents, I think reading the actual How to Be An Antiracist makes more sense for them.
A polarizing figure when he rose to prominence in the late 2010s, Ibram Xolani Kendi softens his image a bit in Antiracist Baby, a picture book meant to introduce the youngest readers to ideas from the author's adult nonfiction. Refinement of one's racial attitudes is an ongoing effort, the story says; an "Antiracist Baby" is made, not born. How does one follow the path of antiracism as Dr. Kendi defines it? By adhering to nine basic rules, explained in these pages for toddlers to understand.
You don't need to pretend that race or cultural differences don't exist; by openly acknowledging them, you relieve tension in the public square. If you see an instance of racism, speak out; otherwise the problem can't be addressed and fixed. To avoid vilifying principled people who disagree with you, focus on criticizing policy rather than labeling individuals racist; divisive rhetoric hurts the cause of social progress. People hold to a wide variety of beliefs and traditions, and it's important not to judge them if it isn't necessary. The ability to speak one's heart and mind is fundamental to a free, fair society. If you struggle with racist feelings of your own, don't be afraid to admit it; being honest about areas you want to improve in will help you become a better person. All of us are works in progress, and developing our character and worldview is a laudable goal. Any society of earnest, moral people will eventually overcome evils such as racism, this book assures us, and we'll all be better for having contributed to the cause.
Some of the messaging in Antiracist Baby is controversial, but a few of Dr. Kendi's points should elicit agreement across the political spectrum. "Point at policies as the problem, not people. Some people get more, while others get less...because policies don't always grant equal access." Refraining from ad hominem in political conversation is a good rule of thumb, staying focused on ideas and not insulting those who disagree with you. "Celebrate all our differences. Antiracist Baby doesn't see certain groups as 'better' or 'worse.' Antiracist Baby loves a world that's truly diverse." Encouraging people of all cultures, religions, and classes to join in the political discourse ensures that every opinion is represented in the marketplace of ideas. As the book goes on to say, "Antiracist Baby appreciates how groups speak, dance, and create as they choose. Antiracist Baby welcomes all groups voicing their unique views." That's easy to say and difficult to put into practice, but a kid who adheres to the precepts I've quoted in this paragraph will make society better.
Why do I rate Antiracist Baby only one and a half stars? I find the illustrations off-putting, the ideas that Dr. Kendi writes about don't always come across clearly, and the rhyme scheme is ineffective. I applaud the desire to write a book for kids about moral values, regardless of whether I agree with every one of those values, but it's hard to imagine a child loving and learning from Antiracist Baby. Nevertheless, I'm glad Ibram X. Kendi took the time to write a book for this age group.
I am just boggled. This book is poorly illustrated and, I have to say, poorly written. I can't believe anyone would recommend this book seriously. I get why it was published -- good on the author for taking advantage of the current crazy political climate. I hope he's laughing all the way to the bank -- I just don't get why someone would actually ever recommend it as a useful text. Are we sure it's not satire? I rather feel like I've stumbled into an episode of South Park. They did it better, just sayin'.