Book Review: The Zion & Zara Stories: The Big Bike Race
by Tenesha Jarvis, Illustrated by Gabriel Curley
Publication Date: Oct 22, 2018
List Price: $20.99
Format: Paperback, 34 pages
Publisher: Author Solutions
Parent Company: Najafi Companies
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Book Reviewed by Amanda Robinson
Good children’s books are hard to come by. Many of them lack morals for children to learn from or educational content to grow their minds. Often, the books we consider to be classic in this genre are those that offer something to challenge our children’s thinking, ethics and integrity.
First time author, Tenesha Jarvis, epitomizes what a good children’s book should be in her recently published book, Zion & Zara Stories: The Big Bike Race. We are introduced to ten-year-old twins, Zion and Zara, who are excited to embark on the first day of summer break. As we journey with them in preparation for Zion’s participation in a race, the bond that they share as brother and sister is evident. We learn of their talents, and Zion’s desire to safeguard his sister’s wellbeing. Essentially, this is a story about Black girl magic and black boy joy. Zara is magical because she has the power to concurrently play kickball with the boys, while also having the femininity to blow the biggest bubbles you’d ever seen. Zion exemplifies Black boy joy by being talented in his own regard, and in the end persevering and being triumphant in his endeavor.
Twin sister Zara relentlessly supports her brother, doubtlessly believing in his ability to win the bike race. Zion shows us that it doesn’t matter how young you are; hard work and determination are necessary components of victory. While this book subtly screams Black pride, it is something children of all races can relate to. The commencement of summer break and the endless opportunities to indulge in limitless adventure is precisely what childhood joy is about. Moments to be able to play with your friends and make memories are what most children cherish.
The accompanying illustrations throughout that were done by young artist, Gabriel Curley, convey a historic and un-gentrified Brooklyn. The use of watercolor offers us a feeling of timelessness of the essence of the great city of Brooklyn. His ability to support Jarvis’ storyline without being overbearing is commendable. Curley depicts happy brown children and the other neighborhood’s residents imperturbably, yet effectively.
Zion and Zara Stories: The Big Bike Race is a tale about perseverance, triumph and family. The much-needed representation of a strong African-American family unit is present in this book, which is something that I appreciated immensely. This story is a great introduction to Jarvis’ career as she offers us a classic feel of 90’s Brooklyn, but more importantly this book is a great asset to any child’s library.