BOOK REVIEW: ‘Marley Dias Gets it Done and So Can You!’ by Marley Dias, introduction by Ava DuVernay

c.2018, Scholastic Press
$14.99 ($19.99 Canada)
208 pages

I don’t like that!

How many times a day do you say those words? Surely, you’ve been saying them all your life, about food, time-outs, bedtime, homework, curfews, clothes and a hundred other things. So you don’t like that. Read “Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You!” by Marley Dias … and do something about it!

It all started with a stack of pancakes.

Marley Dias and her mother were having breakfast one afternoon, when Marley’s mom asked what one thing Marley would change in the coming new year.

It happened after Marley just had finished “a ridiculously amazing book” that “opened a whole new world…” That, and a required-reading list that was badly lacking in diversity led her to say that she would change how “classic” books are viewed in schools. To be exact, schools needed more Black Girl books on their shelves.

“How can educators expect kids to love, instead of dread, reading when they never see themselves in the stories they’re forced to read?” she asks.

And so, with the help of her parents, Marley created a hashtag (#1000blackgirlbooks) to match the idea she’d envisioned: to collect and donate to schools and libraries a thousand books featuring Black girls in the stories. Her parents started using the hashtag on their social media accounts and it spread. And spread, and soon, Marley’s campaign really took off. By now, she’s collected well beyond her original goal of 1000 books, and she’s donated them all.

But there’s more to this book, as you’ll see by “the very last word: You!” Yes, you can make change, and the first step is “get woke.” Look around: what are the biggest issues facing your community and how can you be the activist that’s needed?

Then, learn to listen and respect others’ thoughts. “Start small,” says Marley, and “Pace yourself.” Tell people about what you hope to accomplish and find your tribe. Ask your parents, teachers and other trusted adults for help and counsel, please.

And finally, educate yourself by reading. If you don’t know what to read, ask. Librarians, says Marley, are “super-helpful partners.”

Although the claim is that it’s really, really not a memoir, “Marley Dias Gets It Done and So Can You!” is a memoir. But that’s OK – its life-story theme doesn’t detract one bit from the bubbly can-do attitude that oozes from its pages.

As we’ve seen lately, kids can make change and author Marley Dias is a great activist ambassador for that. Readers will not only get advice on getting involved, they’ll also get chipper, gossipy information that make Dias approachable, like any normal teen. Parents should also note that Dias tackles the bad parts of life online, including trolls and haters, and she stresses to young readers that parental involvement is absolutely key.

For the 11- to 14-year-old who frets about being too young to create change, this book may spark some action. For sure, it’ll open young eyes to old issues and for that, “Marley Dias Gets it Done” is a book you’ll both like.

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