WOW Recommends: Hands Up

The cover of Hands Up! depicts a young brown girl jumping in the air with her hands up, smiling, in front of a yellow background that resembles the sun.Each scene in Breanna McDaniel’s picturebook Hands Up! depicts an everyday life event accompanied by text that ends with the phrase “hands up.”

“Morning, baby. Time to get dressed, hands up.”
Gotta get clean. Reach for the sink, hands up.
“It’s all right, baby girl, I’ll help, hands up.”

Young listeners will recognize this pattern as an invitation to chime in as a choral or shared reading of Hands Up! As they participate, listeners will realize that they, too, put their hands up when they raise them in class to be called on or when they reach for a book on a high shelf in the library. In her first picturebook, McDaniel “wanted to emphasize the ways I’ve experienced that phrase as part of my everyday life: at home, at play, in church, and at protests with young people leading the way” to counter the “difficult emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, and fear” that the phrase evokes “for many people.”

Writing this book was personal for McDaniel. In a January 2019 interview with Edith Campbell for We Need Diverse Books, McDaniel tells how she wrote Hands Up! for her nieces and nephews and cousins as a way to say “I got your back.” At the time, neither Campbell nor McDaniel could have known the significant role “Hands Up” would play in families and classrooms where adults are searching for books that invite young children to take action. The interview is playful, intriguing, and insightful. I recommend sharing the interview with children who engage with Hands Up!

Shane Evans’ vibrant illustrations pair beautifully with McDaniel’s text. In some scenes, listeners will need to focus on both the text and the illustrations to understand the story. For example, the text in one scene reads, “Stretch high! Almost there, hands up.” Alone, the text can be interpreted in many different ways. However, Evans’ illustration of a young child stretching to reach a glass of juice sitting on top of a table adds context and therefore clarifies the meaning of the words.

In the illustrator’s note at the end of Hands Up! Evans shares that he often “act(s) out the story to learn how to draw it.” Evans’ explanation of his illustrating process serves as a second invitation to listeners to join in during the reading of this story. They can imitate the characters during a read aloud session or engage in a reader’s theatre. Listeners can also extend the story as they recall other ways that they have experienced the phrase “hands up.”

As the pandemic continues worldwide, as civil unrest persists across the U.S. and as the 2020 presidential election approaches, families and educators are searching for resources they can use as entry points to talk about taking action with young children. McDaniel’s picturebook Hands Up! provides that entry point. -Recommended by Mary L. Fahrenbruck, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University

Author: Breanna J. McDaniel
Illustrator: Shane W. Evans
ISBN: 9780525552314
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
PubDate: January 22, 2019

Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media.

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