Who Do I see in the Mirror? Image Credit: PhillyandFriends
At Ubuntu Courtyard, we don't just state facts. In a world where empty calorie-content is rife; our story-telling goes the extra mile to give you nourishing and thoughtful perspectives that nurture the mind, body and soul. We wouldn't do justice to this beautiful book by merely describing the 4 P's (product, price, place and promotion). Doing so would lose the essence of this little gem. Dynamite does indeed come in small packages.
The story begins
Sometime last year, I went on a quest online to assess the children's book market. I didn't have to dig too deep to find Who Do I See in the Mirror? It quietly stood out of the many children of colour books on offer. Having raised two well-read teenagers, I know a thing or two about buying and reading children's books. From adventures of Biff, Chip & Kipper to Michael Morpurgo and everything in between, we covered them all. Most of the books are timeless classics that will withstand the taste of time. However, coming across this 'new kid on the block' was a breath of fresh air.
Fell in love with this simple, yet rich book aimed at 0-6-year olds. It was beautifully illustrated with fresh story-lines that would captivate any young reader. Although I've come across a few books featuring chidren of colour, I've often struggled to accept the depiction of African children carrying firewood on their heads, wearing beaded jewellery while adorned in traditional clothes. I felt that this depiction was not representative of all. Children of colour in the Western world are as fashion conscious and savvy as any other westernised child on the planet. As I looked at the book cover, I saw a young girl representing my own: adorable, happy with sparkling brown eyes. Eyes that radiated a quiet confidence which can only be expressed by a well-loved and secure child.
I knew this is the kind of book I would have wanted my children to read many years ago when they were still learning to read. They say a cover can't tell you a story. Yet, the first time I came across this book, I knew that an absolute void had been filled. Although I initially didn't place an order for there was no need, my heart rejoiced for the many children from all walks of life who would read the book. Out of awe and curiosity, I decided to follow the author, Vese Aghoghovbia Wolu (PhillyandFriends) on Instagram.
But I am not just my eyes. I am so much more. Image Credit: PhillyandFriends
Start of something new
Early this year, Vese posted a story about her journey as a writer. She touched on how her concept was to introduce the idea of self-love and acceptance to very young children. She aimed to present it not as an established author, but as a mother. Vese had seen a gap in the market and when she pointed it out, she was intially met with resistance. A few 'voices of reason' told her that the book wouldn't take off. How many times have we been told that our visons were impossible, too wild or too niche?
Nevertheless, she believed in her dream. With a few supporting souls rallying behind her, that simple idea is now inspiring thousands of little children. Within a year, Who Do I See in the Mirror? is now being distributed across a network of over 25 stockists (and counting) in the U.K. alone. More sellers are embracing the book across America. What a beautiful gift for many during those critical formative years! To date, Vese has been interviewed by prominent broadcasters in the United Kingdom. She has succeeded to cast her positive message on body image and identity across a more extensive network.
The power of positive messages.
I just couldn't read such a beautiful story and keep quiet; had to say something.
This is the kind of book I would have wanted my children to read many years ago when they were still learning to read. They say a cover can't tell you the story, yet, the first time I came across this book, I knew that an absolute void had been filled.
I congratulated Vese on her milestone, and told her how her story had inspired me as a budding children's novelist. She did respond, which was lovely of her, and went on to send me another encouraging message. She encouraged me to go after my dreams. From then on, we chatted back and forth as she shared her experiences and wisdom derived from her journey. I felt I'd found another soul who believed in me; someone who'd walked the walk. Awesome!
Although my children are now teenagers, I knew of a little girl who would appreciate Vese's work. I then ordered a copy via Amazon.
Feedback: A little positivity goes a long way
The sweet little girl I gave the book to loved it, according to mum. Mum said she was also inspired by Philly and Friend's initiative to sponsor a book for an underprivileged child with each purchase. The book also comes with a lovely certificate to celebrate who the child sees in the mirror. A week or so later, I bumped into another parent. Her feedback inspired me not just to write a review but to tell a story of how this simple book was causing a new wave of hope among children and parents alike.
She said, "I saw So and So with this brilliant book last week. She told me that it was from you. Initially thought it was your book which you once talked about, I later worked out that you'd bought it, not written it. Our children go swimming at the same time, and the youngest often play together while waiting for their brothers and sisters. As we were waiting, the little girl gingerly opened the book and started reading. My five-year-old son joined in, and they went through the pages together. You could tell they were enjoying looking at the pictures and reading along. It was so beautiful to watch. Other parents took notice and started taking pictures of the book. They all said they were going to order one for their respective children; having been inspired by what they'd seen. It's the kind of book that young children should read. I'm going to recommend the book to my son's school who is in Key Stage One."
A moment of reflection
There isn't much to say after the above feedback, except to encourage you all to purchase Who Do I See in the Mirror? As if by coincidence, a young black girl in America recently went viral, breaking so many hearts in the process. The little girl looked at herself in the mirror while having her hair done, and blurted these words, "I'm so ugly." That was painful to watch, and know that most people, black and white were touched by the reassurances she received from her hair-stylist.
It took me back to a time when a jovial girl approached me while I was visiting her school. As the children huddled in small groups during playtime, this ten-year-old walked towards me, with a friendly smile tattooed on her face and said, "Miss, I love your hair (afro), I think you're lovely!" She wasn't black, but what she said touched me to the core. In me, she'd seen a confident woman who loved what she saw in the mirror every single day, and for any girl to utter those words to me was humbling. How I wish she'd stopped right there. Thanked her I did for her compliment but made sure to let her know that she was a bubbly soul, beautiful - inside and out. I thanked her for making me feel welcome in her school. Still smiling, she responded, "Miss, I'm ugly!"
This most amazing happy-go-lucky girl in the playground who made sure everyone was alright saw beauty in others, except herself. It shattered my heart to pieces.
Sincerely hope that my reassurances were enough to give her some level of encouragement, to change the way she saw herself. To this day, I still hope and pray that she found happiness and confidence within herself wherever she is.
In a world where negativity is readily fed, especially around body image, it's paramount that parents and carers teach our young ones that they're awesome, loved and enough as they are. They need positive affirmations consistently to remind them that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. That way, they are more likely to be confident individuals who are less likely to succumb to the unrealistic expectations of the lost.
Although this picture book is a long-awaited gift for many black children, the title doesn't just fit in a pigeon-hole based on skin colour. The more you read, the more you realise that it celebrates other children who are different from the little girl in the story, and together, are happy within themselves. It also touches on what's inside, not just the way one looks. I would say this book portrays a real sense of belonging by acknowledging and embracing all attributes that come from being a child of colour and that's simply enough.
Once you know who you are, and love what you see in the mirror, others will love it with you!
Do your children and many other young ones a favour. Order a copy of Who Do I See in the Mirror? via Amazon or the author's website: phillyandfriends.com.