By Elizabeth Wroten
Picture Book Review: Shorty and the Sullivans by Linda J. Mubarak
On 18, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From Goodreads: Meet The Sullivans, an African American couple in their early 50s. They do not have children, but they do have a big, black dog named Ebony Joyce who they sometimes call Ebony J. In this story, the Sullivans discover that sympathy, empathy and compassion can emerge from very small events, and that sometimes, the best friendships can develop from very unusual circumstances.
Shorty and the Sullivans is another sweet, gentle book from Dr. Linda Mubarak. It’s a story full of heart and compassion. From a collection development perspective, this book has the kind of representation we should be looking for and demanding in our picture books. The Sullivans are a kind older couple who, in the course of the story, take in a young pup. At its heart Shorty and the Sullivans is just a story about dogs and the Sullivans are unremarkably black. It’s the kind of story we see all the time with white (and straight and two-parent and cisgender) families and characters but rarely see with anyone else. This kind of representation is so desperately needed because it normalizes families that aren’t white and doesn’t fall victim to somehow painting whiteness as normal and default. The publisher, Melanin Origins, strives to provide this representation as well as providing affirmation for children of color and shedding light on forgotten or unfairly obscure historical figures. Yet the book isn’t a political statement for its target audience, nor does it need to be. So, will kids like it? In a word, yes. It’s a book about two dogs and their humans. Kids love stories about dogs. Case in point, when the book showed up on our doorstep my daughter immediately noticed the dogs on the cover and began asking what the book was about and if we could read it right then and there. For adults who need more substance than just dogs, it’s also a lovely lesson in empathy as Mrs. Sullivan takes in the homeless puppy and the family learns to incorporate the new family member. The text is on the longer side in this book so I recommend it for classrooms and libraries that serve slightly older children, first through third grade. But I definitely encourage you to check it out and add it to your collections.
Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.
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Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.