Looks Like Who?

God smiles_when-God-made-you

I looked for just the right Valentine’s Day cards. They would be for Jenna’s students, all who are children of color. I wanted cards that would reflect them.

But they weren’t to be found.

I found cards with white kids, with superheroes, with cartoon characters, with kittens and puppies. I begrudgingly settled on a box of Minions.

I have the same trouble at Christmas when I’m looking for easy reading books to give them. While we do enjoy (and need) stories about people that are different than us, we also enjoy (and need) stories that we can relate to.

Where are the children’s books with people of color as the heroes?

There are a few. I mainly order them online to get enough each year.

And, thankfully, the number of books reflecting all of us is growing. According to recent studies, people of color were in only 9% of children’s books published twenty years ago in the U.S. But by 2016, that percentage had jumped to 22%.

Yet with demographics reflecting 38%, the numbers still lag reality.

To authors, illustrators, publishers, book buyers, and book readers, we can do better.

WaterBrook recently published this beautiful book, When God Made Youby Matthew Paul Turner.


Delightfully illustrated by David Catrow, it features a young black girl in bright settings, as the words on the page remind her how much she is loved by God.

“Out of billions of faces from cultures, all races,
people God made, from all different places,

God knew your name. Your picture is framed.
God’s family without you would not be the same.”

When we see people who look like us, mirrored as the image of God, we find the words more believable. We’re more likely to hope, to dream, to aspire to greater things.

Just ask young black girls who are being inspired by the film Hidden Figures. (Have you seen it yet? Go!) It’s based on the true story of three African-American female aerospace workers in the 1960s who were human computers.

It’s adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. (I haven’t read it yet…any of you? Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.)


Read an excerpt from the book via NYMag. Photo: Courtesy of Chernin Entertainment

We all benefit when each of us have healthy role models.

“A you who views others as sisters and brothers
and lives by three words: love one another.

A confident you, strong and brave too.
You being you is God’s dream coming true.”

Books like these are good for black kids.

But also for white kids. For Asian kids. For all kids.

Kids of all ages.

“‘Cause when God made you, all of heaven was beaming.
Over YOU, God was smiling and already dreaming.”


* * *

What’s a favorite book or movie you relate to? Please share any thoughts in the comments.

Related articles:

My thanks to Blogging for Books
for the review copy of this book.

46 thoughts on “Looks Like Who?

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Lisa! The film to which I most relate is, hands-down, “Fury”. When barb saw it, she said that when I die she only need put in the DVD and I’ll be back again for her for a couple of hours, in the guise of the profanely reverent Sgt. Don Collier, played by Brad Pitt.

    And that’s probably the ONLY time I will ever be mentioned in the same passage as Mr. Pitt!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. I never got around to seeing “Fury” but I do remember it being advertised. You and Brad Pitt; got it. 🙂 (Now that’s the second time y’all are mentioned together.) It sounds like a movie Jeff would watch while I cover my eyes or cry through most of it.

  2. jodie filogomo

    This is so true Lisa!! I think we all need to be able to relate with others like us!
    We don’t see many movies lately, but I have to admit that when I saw Helen Mirren in Red, I was fascinated that an older women could be one of the heroes!!
    She’s still one of my heros–not just in looks but also in personality!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I like Helen Mirren too (although I haven’t seen Red!). I always love seeing Judi Dench playing strong characters in movies as well. I’ll have to watch for more of Helen Mirren’s movies now. 😉 Thanks for sharing, Jodie.

  3. Michele Morin

    I love kids’s books, and like you, I’m noticing — and making mention of — those that honor diversity by showing kids of all colors doing all kinds of things. Thanks for this great review and your spot on thoughts.

  4. Jerralea

    Great thoughts, Lisa! Thanks for sharing couplets from the book – I especially like this one:

    “A you who views others as sisters and brothers
    and lives by three words: love one another.
    A confident you, strong and brave too.
    You being you is God’s dream coming true.”

    I want to live by those three words, too. I’m going to be getting this book for my grands because I want them to see this message, too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aren’t those three words the most important! I know you do live by them, Jerralea. If you do get this book, hope you and the grands have sweet moments reading it together.

  5. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! I love the cover art on that book! And you are so right, we all need to see ourselves reflected in what we see and what we read. You are very sensitive to keep that in mind for your class.
    It’s good that we see diversity too. I think this would be a wonderful book for my grandchildren to read too. The world is a very big and beautiful and diverse place. Experiencing that should instill joy, just like seeing ourselves in the world.

  6. Barbara H.

    I am so glad to know of this book! My grandson, as you know, is half Indian, and most of his books now are filled with animals and vehicles, but as he grows I want him to encounter people of color in his books as a normal and not an occasional thing.

    I haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, but I heard of one of the women in an episode of the TV show Timeless, then shortly afterward heard of the movie. I didn’t know there was a book, too! I hope to encounter the book and/or movie at some point.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, this would be a great book to read with Timothy. I hope that the world will be a more open place for him as he grows up. He is so beautiful. I love how God put your family together.

      I watched the first episode of Timeless but would like to see more. There’s just not enough time to read all the books and watch all the things we want to…and really live life. 🙂

  7. Pam

    Great post, Lisa! How much does the lack of diversity in such books, cards, etc. affect the interest or lack of it in reading by other cultures? I was especially tuned into this sort of thing as we were a part of a largely African-American church for 21 years and I served on the staff for the last 13 of those prior to retiring. The amount of things I was exposed to and learned about that culture were considerable over time (not all was always great, but all valuable learning).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I know you have some great experiences after 21 years in a diverse church, Pam. I’d love to sit down for a few hours and talk. 🙂 The two churches we’ve attended the past 20+ years have both been racially diverse, which is great, but we still need to push a little further. I had breakfast with one of my black girlfriends last Friday, and we talked about how it can still seem like a “white church with black people there” than a truly integrated church. I don’t know how to fix things, but I’m glad we’re on a better path anyway than in years gone by.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You’re welcome, Matthew. And I thank you for writing this book! It’s a beautiful message for everyone. I pray that it makes it into the hands and hearts of children and adults all over the world.

  8. Pingback: Looks Like Who? – Telephone Engineers Warrington

  9. BettieG

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m so glad you reminded me of this book–last time I read a review, I forgot to put it on my wishlist. It’s definitely one that I want to have available for my Grands, since we are a multi-racial family, with our daughter-in-law coming here from Vietnam. What a beautiful way to open the hearts of our young ones (and ourselves) to appreciate the gifts that God has created in each one of us!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you found this and I pray that it will be a great addition to your library. How wonderful that you are a multi-racial family, Bettie. We have so much to learn and enjoy by expanding our love to everyone from all cultures.

  10. Sarah Donegan

    I love your heart and your love! And I can’t wait to see Hidden Figures with my family. One of my girls love math and the other wants to work for NASA. Beyond that, I want them to see the history. Neither has ever really seen color, and I pray that continues!

  11. Ashley Davis

    I think I saw this book at your house last week? I was going to pick it up and look at it, but we started talking. Haha.

    It is sad to me that there are not more books about different ethnic groups and races. Glad to see that this is changing.

    One movie I really like is Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie is not Christian based, but I can draw many Christian elements out of it. One quote in the movie says something like they built train tracks through the Alps even before there was a train to go on the tracks. So he was telling the main character to have faith. She wanted a wedding at the house she bought. Later in the movie, there was a wedding there. It wasn’t her wedding, but she didn’t really say she wanted her wedding there. It reminds me of how God sometimes answers our prayers in ways that we don’t expect. Diane Lane plays the main character. I’m not sure I exactly relate to her, but more of the themes I draw from the movie. 😊

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, you likely did see this book sitting on my coffee table, Ashley. 🙂 It is a beautiful book that would draw you in.

      I can’t remember if I’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun or not…I’ve either seen it or a movie similar to it. Regardless, I love the theme you pull out of it, that God can answer our prayers in the most unexpected yet delightful ways!

  12. June

    Hidden Figures was one of the most inspiring movies I’ve ever seen. It’s too bad that more parents don’t mix race when it comes to dolls, books and other toys. They could make sure a positive, lasting impact. This book looks so sweet, Lisa, I’m bookmarking it for me niece when she’s a little older 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, June; too often we don’t mix things up enough. We watched an episode last night of Black-ish (it came on earlier this week I think) about this very thing. The mom (who is black) wanted a black role model doll for her child instead of always a white one but the store predominantly sold white ones. I’ve really enjoyed learning a lot about race issues from this sitcom. And laughing a lot through it, too.

  13. Dawn Boyer

    I am so glad you are writing about this. I have often wondered that same question with commercials and magazines and I mentioned to my son the other day that it felt like that was changing a little. You are right, color should not be an indicator of superhero status… and we can do better.

    🙂 Brave wise words of admonition and encouragement.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Dawn; I think it is changing a little. I am grateful for that. We still have a long way to go, but at least we’re heading in the right direction, I hope.

  14. Lux G.

    This is so refreshing to read. I agree that all children should have a role model they can easily relate to. I think Michelle Obama is a great example among others.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m 100% with you, Lux. Michelle Obama was and continues to be a wonderful role model. She and President Obama set such a excellent example of how to be a loving family under the scrutiny of the public eye. I’m so grateful for how faithful they were to each other and I look forward to watching them lead through various ways in the years to come. I know they’ll stay active in doing good things for America.

  15. Debbie Kitterman

    Lisa – I haven’t read Hidden Figures but I did see the movie – Love it. I cried like a baby, it really hurts my heart how people treat others because they are different. I love the picture of this book. You are right, bold bright colors, they totally draw you in. As far as what movie do I relate to the most? hmm that is a tough one, I relate to so many in each movie I watch… but you gave me something to ponder. Thank you for linking up with #TuneInThursday today!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I cried throughout Hidden Figures too, Debbie. It’s just hard to imagine how people could be so cruel to other human beings. It makes me remember I need to assess my own heart and actions to make sure I don’t have my own hidden prejudices that I’m not even aware of myself.

  16. Jean Wise

    lots of truth here. I love your passion to find those books and the observation that the number is increasing. I haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet but really want to. You are always a great source of ideas for books and movies! Thanks for your curiosity, passion and willingness to share

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Jean. This particular book kind of just came to me, but the past couple of years I have begun to actively look for books like these. When I read them to Jenna’s students, occasionally one of them will make a remark about the child’s skin, so I want to stay attentive to the same details that they are.

  17. Betsy de Cruz

    I LOVED the movie Hidden Figures! Inspiring, positive. It was so good. Made me want to jump up and down in my living room. My husband just kept repeating, “What a beautiful movie.”

    I saw this children’s book featured at Ann Voskamp’s blog. Will have to check this out to give as gifts.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you loved Hidden Figures too! We saw it at the theater and after it was over, everyone in the theater clapped. I love when that happens. So moving.

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