Review Blog

Nov 18 2019

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

cover image

Illus. by Vashti Harrison. Puffin Books, 2019. ISBN: 9780241394328.
(Age: 9 - 12 years) Highly recommended. Sulwe was born the colour of midnight. So begins the stunning picture book Sulwe written by Academy Award winning Kenyan actress and producer Lupita Nyong'o. The book describes the feelings of a young girl whose skin is not the same colour as the other members of her family. She finds it difficult to fit in at school and is taunted by others. Sulwe compares herself to her fairer skinned and popular sister and attempts to lighten her skin but to no avail. She eventually shares her pain with her mother who supports her with love and understanding and explains that her name means star which shows brightness. When night falls, a shooting star takes Sulwe on a journey and tells the story of two sisters, Night and Day who grew apart. The star goes onto explain that both Night and Day need each other and together they make the world as we know it. The story ends with Sulwe realizing that she is unique and special and has her place in the world.
The striking illustrations and use of colour by Vashti Harrison set the mood and reflect the night and day, dark and light theme of the story. Her images of Sulwe are quite beautiful and the portrayal of the two mythical sisters, Night and Day, are stunning.
Sulwe is a wonderful story that warrants a place in any school library. It sends a powerful message to primary aged children and will prompt plenty of class discussion about how we treat others and how we feel about ourselves. It also shows us that with kindness and support, we can begin to overcome our own feelings of low self-esteem and that we are all bright and beautiful as we are. Themes: Families, Self-esteem, Racism, Belonging, Acceptance, Myths, Fantasy.
Kathryn Beilby

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