The Skin You Live In

Michael Tyler, illustrated by David Lee Csicsko. Chicago Children’s Museum, 2018

In our world, we owe it to ourselves to take every opportunity to honour and celebrate the ways we’re both different and the same. These are messages that, if we hear them often enough, might just strengthen our resolve to create the kind of communities that will lesson racism, xenophobia and fear.

This book encourages us to look at all the whimsically drawn children engaged in various activities, noticing their skin colors. “The skin you have fun in; the skin that you run in; the skin that you hop, skip and jump in the sun in. The text then uses food-related metaphors as it pays tribute to skin tones: “Your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin… Your chocolate chip, double dip sundae supreme skin!” By pointing out what skin is not, Michael Tyler emphasizes that skin should not be divisive: “It’s not dumb skin or smart skin, or keep us apart skin; or weak skin or strong skin, I’m right and you’re wrong skin.” On the last page, four children are able to say “when we stand side-by-side in our wonderful hues, we all make a beauty, so wonderfully true.”

I’ve paired this book with a bit of a biology lesson on ‘melanin’, something we all have to give us pigment. Whether we have lighter or darker skin depends on how ‘active our melanin is’, our ancestors, and our climate. This becomes an excellent lesson when paired with an amazing book entitled “All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color” by Katie Kissinger and Chris Bohnhoff.