Picture Book Review: The Principle of Propriety by Tamel Lee

The Principle of Propriety written by Tamel Lee, illustrated by Fleance Forkuo

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.
Image description: A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of propriety. A notion that carries a similar meaning to “righteousness” and states, “I will always seek what is best for myself and others; I will not allow others to influence me to do wrong.”

Marlon is bummed that the community center in his neighborhood is mostly abandoned by his neighbors. He misses playing games and getting together with everyone and his attempts to bang on doors and demand people come back aren’t getting him anywhere. In a last ditch effort, Marlon reaches out the mayor to help him out. Mayor Ausar comes through, both with a lesson in getting people engage with you and also in how to affect change in your community.

Propriety is one of those words that can raise eyebrows and put up backs in progressive circles, but here it is not about oppressed-oppressor relationships, but about community coming together and being considerate of each other’s needs. The Principle of Propriety talks about how to go about engaging meaningfully in community and not just making demands that satisfy your own desires. Marlon wants people to come back to the community center, but Mayor Ausar shows him how to ask the people in the community what it is they want to see happening at the community center and then use that feedback to shape a space where the whole community wants to come together.

This could be an effective book for opening discussions around community engagement projects with students. Mayor Ausar functions as a mentor helping Marlon organize and build community and his ideas can apply to a variety of situations that children might want to come together around, such as cleaning up a community space, advocating for new playground equipment, or starting a community garden, amongst other ideas.

The illustrations are sweet and have a lot of African touches that make the book culturally relevant. This would make a great addition to collections in community centers, school libraries, and homes.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links). Please, in this uncertain time, if at all possible, purchase from an independent/local bookstore. They need our help right now.

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.

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