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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Do you know what the word 'race' means? No, I’m not talking about a physical race to see who’s the fastest; I’m talking about race as it’s applied to define people around the world. No, it’s not about skin color, what foods you eat, or what religion you follow. Race defines and categorizes people who are different than you. But that’s just it, isn’t it? We’re all different from each other and “no one is ‘less’ or ‘more’ than anyone else. Differences aren’t bad – they make us unique. We also have a lot in common." So, differences are what makes a race: “We’re different, but the same.”
The compeers is a group of uniquely diversified young people who take pride in working together to discover who they are, and what it means to be different, but the same. Do you know what a compeer is? Simply put, it’s “an equal, peer, or companion.” Rita Bhandari’s picture book, The Ace Compeers: The Mystery of Race, is out to solve one of the biggest mysteries of all time: the mystery of what race really is. The group consists of young people from all kinds of backgrounds, with visible differences, but unique similarities that bond them together. They’re all very smart and adventurous and they want to understand what it means to be themselves, to be different but the same.
The plot evolves through a series of problem-solving challenges as the young people work together to find some answers and understand what the word ‘race’ means. Each challenge is accompanied by spectacular illustrations to help young readers associate with the visual images of the young characters in the story and the angst they’re going through as they try to unravel this conceptual mystery. With discussion activities for the reader to share with their peers, this is a powerful story, a distinct tool to address the complicated (but not so complicated) concept of equity and inclusion. It will have young readers challenging some pretty serious issues that face us all today. Adults can learn from Rita Bhandari’s picture book, The Ace Compeers: The Mystery of Race, too; I know I did.