Book review: Tots will enjoy tips in ‘Happy in Our Skin’

Mama says it’s chilly outside, and you need to cover up.

You can’t let the cold nip your nose or your toes, so she bundles you up warm with boots and coat, maybe a scarf and mittens, too. As you’ll see in the book, “Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia, Mama — and something else — will keep you toasty, inside and out.

Right after a baby is born, someone wraps it tight in a blanket or a sweater to keep it warm. But did you know a baby — every baby, even you — is already born with a warm suit? It’s their birthday suit, made of skin.

Skin comes in all kinds of colors: “cocoa brown, cinnamon and honey gold … ginger-colored … peaches and cream …” as well as pale, freckled, dimpled, dappled and skin that’s different shades. No matter what it looks like, it’s just skin. We all have it, and it does the same really cool thing: “It keeps the outsides out and your insides in.”

This is cool, too: As you get bigger, your skin gets bigger right along with you. You don’t even have to think about it or ask for help with it. It just does. And you know what happens when you hurt your skin? Yep, you get a “perfect seal” in the form of a scab that keeps blood in and germs out. Think about that the next time you skin your knee or bump your elbow when you’re playing.

What else does skin do?

It makes you warm and snuggly when Mom or Dad hugs you. It makes you laugh when they tickle your belly. Your skin feels good when someone scratches your back, holds your hand or plays “This Little Piggy” on your toes. Yes, you have clothes for your body, hands and your feet, but your skin is your first protection.

And the best part of all? Nobody has skin exactly like yours! You are unique, and so is your skin.

For much of your toddler’s life, you’ve been playing Where’s Your Nose-Chin-Elbow so your child can learn the names of his body parts. Now, with “Happy in Our Skin,” you can add a new twist to an old game in a truly sweet way.

Starting with snuggly babies and using a simple rhyme, Manushkin tells the story of skin, what it does, why we have it and why one person’s skin is one color and your child’s skin might be another. Manushkin doesn’t highlight differences; instead, she treats them quite matter-of-factly and like no big deal. That sentiment’s underscored with illustrations by Tobia: on page after page, your child will see drawings of kids of all races playing together and their mothers caring for them.

The audience for this book is narrow: Babies are a little too young for it, and 5-year-olds may be too old. The sweet spot, I think, is for 2- to 4-year-olds who are just starting to notice differences. For them, “Happy in Our Skin” covers just what they need.

— View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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