Lulu the One and Only by Lynnette Mawhinney,
illustrated by Jennie Poh
Magination Press, 2020, 32 pages
Meet Lulu, short for Luliwa which means “pearl” in Arabic. Lulu is part of a loving family, in fact her last name is Lovington. Lulu has an older brother named Zane, a mom who always wears the black pearl earrings her mother in Kenya gave her, and a dad who coaches Zane’s hockey team. The Lovington family is biracial, which means that people who don’t know them very well always think mom is Lulu’s sitter and ask “What do you charge?” or dad has adopted her to give “her a good home.”
But inevitably, Lulu tells her readers, there is always THAT question, the one she just hates, that hurtful, insensitive question people are always asking: “What are you?”
When Lulu wants to know if Zane is asked that question, he tells her that since he is more that his skin, he answers them with his power phrase – “I’m magic made from my parents.”
Zane’s right – the question is not what Lulu is, but it should be who she is. Now all she needs is her own power phrase, one that will absolutely capture who Lulu is in all her uniqueness. Sure enough, when a boy in her class asks her what she is, Lulu answers “I’m Lulu Lovington, the one and only!” and makes a new friend.
Lulu the One and Only is such an important book to share with young readers right now. With all that is happening in our country around the Black Lives Matter protests, young kids are sure to have lots of questions and this is a book that can help parents and teachers open discussions about racism.
Lulu’s story is upbeat and friendly, and she’s a happy character who is very proud of her heritage, but her dismay at being asked what she is instead of who she is is very apparent. Rather than just becoming withdrawn and angry about it, she turns to her older brother for advice, demonstrating the power of family for support, as well.
Jennie Poh’s colorful illustrations strike just the right balance between playful and serious. What are you? is just one kind of microaggression that people of color face on a daily basis. Lulu the One and Only is a book that can empower young children who are dealing with people’s reactions to their biracial identity, and it is a book that white people, adults and children, can benefit from as well, helping them understand what it feels when people of color are asked insensitive questions, the kind that white people are not usually asked.
Lulu the One and Only is a book that should find a place in every school, classroom and home library.
You can find a Curriculum and Activity Guide courtesy of Magination Press HERE
This book is recommended for readers age 4+ and everyone else
Lynnette Mawhinney, PhD, is associate professor in the department of curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago helping to prepare future urban teachers for the classroom. She’s written several academic books and articles. Lulu the One and Only
is her first children’s book. Dr. Mawhinney is biracial, like her character Lulu, and an expert on teaching diverse populations and in urban environments. She lives in Chicago. To learn more about her, visit her website at https://www.lynnettemawhinney.com/
You can download a curriculum and activity guide created by Lynnette Mawhinney for teaching Lulu the One and Only HERE