By Elizabeth Wroten
Picture Book Review: Today Is the Day by Eric Walters
On 20, Oct 2016 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From Goodreads: Mutanu is excited. As she goes about her chores, she thinks about the day to come and what surprises it might bring. For today is no ordinary day at the orphanage she lives in. Every year, the orphanage honors its newest arrivals by creating a birthday day especially for them. From that moment forward, the orphans have a day that they know is theirs–a day to celebrate, a day to enjoy, a day to remember. And today is the day!
I would cautiously recommend this one. It’s a sweet story. One the one hand it exposes children to the idea of orphanages, orphans, and issues in Kenya with poverty and illness. On the other I think it plays into the narrative of poverty stricken Africa. It is also written by a white man and illustrated by a white woman. So it isn’t #ownvoices and that makes me nervous around the larger narrative it taps into.
I know that at one point we did have a little girl in our school who was adopted from an orphanage in China and I know there are kids out there that have a story similar to this. They deserve to see themselves in books. Today Is the Day wasn’t depressing, in fact the focus around a birthday party made it really upbeat. But I prefer Michaela dePrince’s story. It too taps into the idea of orphanages and West Africa’s problems with war and poverty, but her story is told by her and has a lot more nuance because you follow her through her hard work to become a ballerina.
I don’t feel totally sure that our collection of books set in various countries around Africa show them as modern and not poverty stricken. It’s on the never ending list of pieces of the collection to examine. In the meantime I will hold off on purchasing this book.