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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Ace Compeers: The Secrets of Skin Colour, written by Rita Bhandari and illustrated by Indra Audipriatna, is a mid-grade children's book that takes a scientific approach to explaining the genetic differences in skin color with the aim to advance anti-racism. The book begins with a group of kids around a board to learn about differences in physical characteristics. The usual differences are pointed out with regard to eyes, hair, skin color, etc. The book then transitions into a breakdown of the role genetics play, moving into part two with an overview of topics such as the evolution of melanin as a response to elemental and environmental factors, and concludes with discussion prompts at the end.
As a parent of a child of color, I picked up The Ace Compeers out of curiosity. In my family, science is practically a religion and so the prospect of a scientific anti-racism angle in a book sounded pretty darn good. Overall, the writing style is straightforward and clean, albeit a bit loquacious, and the information presented is easily absorbed if the adult reading along is patient. I would definitely recommend an independent read first, particularly as some of the references may not be familiar. An example of this is when a character named Ang requests the food 'roti' a couple of times; only one of the twelve children I read this to knew what it was. The real star of Rita Bhandari's book is the phenomenal illustrations by Indra Audipriatna, a powerhouse of talent that breathes life into the book and elevates it through a mixed palette of vibrant colors and wonderfully unique imagery. It was the artwork that resonated most with the children and, combined with the storyline, made for a nice piece of educational kid-lit. Recommended.