Picture Book Review: The Principle of Justice by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

The Principle of Justice written by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II, illustrated by Xander A. Nesbitt

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. 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 bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of justice. A principle that states, “I will be fair in all that I do; I will not cheat myself or others.”

King Hippo’s crown has gone missing and he suspects King Crocodile. Last year the two had a water race and King Crocodile was a sore loser about it. So now King Hippo believes he’s getting back at him for winning. Thankfully Princess Nubia is there to help sort things out. She encourages King Hippo not to jump to conclusions and to do some deeper investigation to find who actually stole the crown.

This is a good mix of parable and fable to demonstrate to kids that we when you are angry and feeling wronged it’s harmful to jump to conclusions and make accusations. It also demonstrates the benefit of getting help to mediate conflict. Hippo is wrong about Crocodile and his accusations just make Crocodile mad, rightfully so. The two of them getting heated is not helpful so Princess Nubia helps them solve the mystery as well as take responsibility for the accusations and their reactions (both to the stolen crown and the lost race the year before).

While this exact story may not play out on the playground or between siblings, it is almost inevitable conflict like this will arise in schoolyards, classrooms, and shared bedrooms. How wonderful to have a story that addresses the issue and models apologizing and taking ownership of your actions. As with the other books in the Ma’at Series, you could read this preemptively or as specific situations arise. Princess Nubia will give you plenty to discuss about how to handle conflict and children will connect with her sense of justice and level-headedness (even if they aren’t always those things themselves). All the books in the series have struck a good balance between being engaging and interesting, offering a lesson, and still not being overly long for their target audience of pre-k, kinder, and first grade children.

I have one small quibble with the story. King Turtle is taken away when it is discovered he is the one who stole the crown and we don’t hear from him again. I would have liked to see some resolution there and some responsibility and restoration take place on his part. However, this is a good opportunity to allow children to use their imaginations to tell what happens to King Turtle and what a good resolution and restitution for his role in the story would be. It’s also possible children will not give Turtle much thought once he’s off page and the main conflict between Hippo and Crocodile is resolved.

This whole series is recommended for libraries that serve homeschooling families and religious communities and also for school libraries that have social emotional wellbeing as part of the elementary curriculum.

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.

Picture Book Review: The Principle of Propriety by Tamel Lee

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.

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.

Picture Book Review: The Principle of Truth by Randy Williams

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.

The Principle of Truth written by Randy Williams, illustrated by Sandro Perovic

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 truth. A principle that states, “I will always seek to discern what is real, know what is correct, and act accordingly.”

Melanin Origins has been hard at work developing new series that focus on principles and people. The All in All Series covers Biblical figures such as Abraham and Elisha. The Principle of Truth is part of the Ma’at Series and delves into what it means to be truthful and why it’s important for trust and community.

Truth, and the others in the Ma’at series, are great books for preschool and kindergarten classrooms that work on social-emotional skills. They can be read preemptively or as issues arise within the classroom as a whole or between specific children. Truthfulness is a particularly salient issue in young children, as lying certainly happens, usually around small issues with low stakes (not to mention that children are very willing to forgive and move on). Discussing the consequences can really help children grapple with the ethics of being truthful and form good habits before the stakes are higher.

I especially appreciated that The Principle of Truth focused on the importance of truth within building and upholding community. Most books about lying that I have seen moralize about individual responsibility and how trust can damage interpersonal relationships, essentially the neoliberal version of truth. This is certainly an important piece of being truthful, but the damage lying can do to community is also incredibly important. Children can learn that we have a responsibility to a larger group of people than just our parents or one or two friends.

I know books with a capital “M” message can be a hard sell, but these books have a place in curriculums and classrooms as well as libraries. They target specific skills and ideas we want to be discussing with our young people, because being explicit about these fundamental aspects of character will ensure our children think about moral and ethical issues as they grow. Unlike the All in All series, these are not overtly religious although these principles clearly align with religious ideals and would fit just as well in parochial schools and Sunday schools as in secular classrooms 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.