My Protest

Children - Non-Fiction
29 Pages
Reviewed on 07/02/2021
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Author Biography

Linda Gaston-Bessellieu is a retired teacher. She worked as a disciplinary "Dean of Students" and a Health Education teacher during her career. Tawana Bessellieu, a co-author, is a preschool teacher and Jaliyah's mother. Jaliyah, a co-author, is 4 1/2 years old. Tawana and Linda (Jaliyah's grandmother), thought it would be intriguing to share how a preschool-age child views the effects of coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter protest, and what they endured at the protest.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lois Henderson for Readers' Favorite

The picture book and early reader My Protest, written by Linda Gaston-Bessellieu and co-authored by Tawana Bessellieu and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb, describes from a first-person perspective how a little girl, Jaliyah, together with her mother, aunt, and cousin Camille, attends a Black Lives Matter protest. She describes how they walked together, carrying poster signs supporting the aim of the protest, which was to help prevent black people from getting killed. Jaliyah describes how they all wore masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. She also shares the instructions given by the leader of the march and tells of the helpful bystanders’ reactions. The book ends with a photo of Jaliyah and her mother picketing in the street.

Based on the real-life story of her granddaughter’s experience of a Black Lives Matter protest, My Protest is Linda Gaston-Bessellieu’s first book, although, from the fluent and exciting way in which it is written, she could be an experienced author with scores of books to her name. As a keen picketer myself, and having run foul of the police a few times in a similar context, namely in anti-apartheid demonstrations, I was really pleased to find a work that so clearly and simply describes what it feels like to be part of a passive protest. For those who feel threatened by such demonstrations, this children’s book should be a real eye-opener, with it serving to dispel many myths and fears related to such socio-political activity. If you are sympathetic to the cause and wish to encourage the development of a more accepting and understanding attitude toward an issue like this, why not buy a few copies to pass on to those around you (especially those with young children) who need some awareness building in this direction?

Tiffany Ferrell

My Protest by Linda Gaston-Bessellieu, Tawana Bessellieu, and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb is about a little girl who went to a black lives matter protest with her mother, aunt, and cousin. She notices that she’s not the only kid at this protest but there are others with their parents also. Defining it the best way that she can, she tells us that they are walking and saying things so that black people will stop being killed. Since this happened during the covid outbreak, the little girl, her cousin, and everyone around them had to wear masks so they don’t catch the virus. As they were walking, they were shouting ‘No justice, no peace’ and ‘black lives matter. Signs were being held up as well as fists. Our little narrator had her sign that said ‘my life matters’, which her mother helped her make. She noticed how people driving by as well as police officers were looking at them, then there were nice people offering water and rides to those protesting. The girl ended up liking the experience, but it had been very tiring for her and she was exhausted by the time she got home.

I thought My Protest was an amazing book that discussed a very serious movement in a way that a child audience could understand. It’s very difficult to discuss and address the inequality and racism that people of color still face to this day, along with the police brutality and the number of black men and women who lost their lives at the hands of the people that swore to serve and protect everyone regardless of color. This book provides that opening for future discussions on the subject. The illustrations are also beautifully done and fit perfectly with the storyline, as well as being a nice and vibrant visual aid for children. Linda Gaston-Bessellieu has done an amazing job with this story, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Cassie Widjaja

My Protest by Linda Gaston-Bessellieu, Tawana Bessellieu, and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb is a fitting story for times like these where racism is at an all-time high. Told from a child's perspective, it recounts her experience of going to a Black Lives Matter protest. This unique true story is brilliantly inspired by the author's 4½-year-old granddaughter, who had joined the protest with her mother during the Coronavirus pandemic. Having heard her granddaughter's perspective on the event, the author realized that we rarely think of how children perceive perplexing and problematic events that can be troublesome even for mature adults. Armed with this new knowledge, the author decided to share this story, hoping it would shine a light on the complexity of racism for young children. With eye-catching illustrations, this short story has a way of getting to your heart.

An incredibly refreshing new take of the protest against racism! By reading My Protest, I was firmly able to grasp what a child may have thought of the Black Lives Matter movement. Realistic and moving, I felt that Linda Gaston-Bessellieu, Tawana Bessellieu, and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb wrote the perfect book for a parent to discuss with their child about racism and why it is so wrong to treat someone differently based on the color of their skin. The story portrays the message against racism clearly, in a way that a child can easily understand. With cute and colorful illustrations, My Protest captures the attention of its readers while its message appeals to their hearts.

Jamie Michele

My Protest, written by Linda Gaston-Bessellieu and illustrated by Juanita Taylor, is a non-fiction children's book centered around the Black Lives Matter protest attended by the primary author's daughter and grandaughter, Tawana Bessellieu and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb. Told through the eyes of four and a half-year-old Jaliyah. The experience is further underscored by the prevalence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, as Jaliyah describes what she saw, heard, and felt when she joined family members in one of the many powerful Black Lives Matter marches. Written in the first person and with the raw honesty that only an innocent child has the capacity to convey, Jaliyah recounts masks and raised fists, signs declaring that her life matters and the forms of support offered by allies, and the emotional and physical exhaustion as the day came to a close.

The first thing that is important to remember when reading My Protest is that it is non-fiction and that this is little Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb's experience. The writing does not have the polish that similar books that are meant to explain and inspire social activism, but in this specific narrative the juvenile syntax and style appear to be written this way with genuine intent. It feels personal and Linda Gaston-Bessellieu remains true to her grandaughter in this regard. Juanita Taylor is a gifted artist and the simple illustrations provide visual representations of the day without detracting from the message. There is a degree of discomfort that readers could have with the use of phrases like “ black men, children, and women won't get killed...”, but as the mother of children of color myself, it's tiresome to have to constantly put the potential discomfort of others above the severity of what the protests stand for, and the lives of millions of people. Recommended.

Kristine Zimmerman

Linda Gaston-Bessellieu, with her daughter Tawana Bessellieu and granddaughter, Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb, has written a timely and important story called My Protest. Told from a child’s point of view, My Protest tells the story of attending a Black Lives Matter protest during the time of Covid. Our young protester explains what protesting means to her. She also explains why she is wearing a mask. We see the protest through her eyes. She shares the words they are chanting as they walk and talks about the people they meet and see along the way. A very powerful picture shows the sign she carries, ‘My Life Matters’.

Linda Gaston-Bessellieu has done a remarkable job relating what a protest looks and feels like for the youngest listener. My Protest is written simply and straightforwardly from a child’s viewpoint. It’s rare to find a book on such an important topic that is so accessible for young children. Young children often see and hear more than we think, so it is so important to have a book like My Protest, which can be used to help them understand the world around them. The soft pastel illustrations by Juanita Taylor fit the story perfectly. Gaston-Bessellieu wrote the story based on her granddaughter’s experience participating in her first Black Lives Matter protest. Sharing the photograph of her granddaughter holding her sign at the protest will inspire kids and show them they can make a difference too. My Protest is a book that teachers and parents will appreciate having as a resource.

Elaine Brittenum

As a retired Principal from NYC, I would have purchased this book for my entire early childhood teachers (PreK-2). Why? because the experience is REAL and told from the eyes of a child. "My Protest" is an excellent starting point for open discussions about peaceful protests, why do we protest?, wearing of masks and the understanding behind this. Educationally, this literature opens so many doors in assisting young children with the necessary comprehension of the world we live in. And, to have young children express their feelings and emotions. I enjoyed reading this book to my grandson and observing his eyes widen as I read.

All schools should add a few books to their curriculum because it is an excellent starting point for open discussions among children. Have you discussed this with your child? If not, this non-fictional book will be your jumping point.

Kudos! to Linda Gaston-Bessellieu, Tawana Bessellieu and Jaliyah Bessellieu-Webb on a job well done. Excellent literature!!