Action Figure! New York Times Touts Kiddie Book 'Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice'

December 28th, 2020 12:46 PM

Sunday's New York Times Book Review included a promotional article in its Children's Books section to the topic of "Civil Rights." The headline? 

Action Figures: Black lives that have moved us and 'moved the world forward.'

It began with the book Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! and then turned to the kiddie book Kamala Harris: Rooted In Justice. Book reviewer Leah Henderson compared Harris to Chisholm as an inspirational figure, quoting from author Nikki Grimes: "Kamala was like clay her parents molded for action.” 

Framed by a mother’s encouragement of her young daughter after a boy at school tells her that she can’t become president, Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice unfolds as a road map to how anyone can try for the job through hard work, dedication, caring and confidence.

Raised by immigrant parents on civil rights marches, lectures by Martin Luther King Jr., readings at a local cultural center by James Baldwin and Maya Angelou, and Nina Simone’s “gravelly voiced version” of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” Harris learned early what it looked like to fight for freedom and speak out against injustice. 

This focused spirit is evident in a poignant exchange between baby Kamala and her mother, beautifully captured by Grimes: “‘What do you want, little girl?’ she asked. ‘Freedom!’ said Kamala, and a waterfall of laughter sputtered from her mother’s mouth.” 

Through bold, bright colors juxtaposed against the ethereal-blue shadows of those who came before, Laura Freeman’s illustrations complement Grimes’s text, with subtle nods to Harris’s roots in India, Jamaica and America. “Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice” is an enlightening and, at times, lyrical portrait of a woman whose life has always been about advocating for others.

Now try to figure out how this “book review” differs substantially from the book blurb from Simon & Schuster (which, we should note, is also publishing the book reviewer's latest picture book.) 

Discover the incredible story of a young daughter of immigrants who would grow up to be the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American ever elected Vice President of the United States in this moving picture book biography of Kamala Harris.

When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. And now this dedication has led her all the way to being elected Vice President of the United States.

On a similar theme, Grimes also wrote the children’s book Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope.