The author is best known for his novels and essays, but now James Baldwin's only children's book is coming back into print. First published by Dial in 1976, Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood will be re-released by Duke University Press in August 2018, and will feature the original illustrations from Yoran Cazac. According to Publishers Weekly, the re-issue of James Baldwin's children's book will also feature "an introduction by the edition's coeditors, Baldwin scholars Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody; a foreword by Baldwin's nephew, Tejan 'TJ' Karefa; and an afterword by Aisha Karefa-Smart, the author's niece and Karefa's older sister."
Based on the author's extended family, Little Man, Little Man centers on TJ and Blinky, a four-year-old boy and his older sister, living in a Harlem brownstone. The story came about as the result of the real-life TJ's request for his uncle to write a book about him. Publishers Weekly notes that Baldwin frequently "visited and entertained his illustrious coterie of colleagues and friends in his extended family’s brownstone."
Little Man, Little Man might be the only book James Baldwin wrote explicitly for children, but his 1953 coming-of-age novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, is frequently taught in high schools around the U.S., though not without its share of controversy. Go Tell It on the Mountain was one of eight books that parents at an Illinois high school attempted to ban in 2016, along with Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things.
Even though Little Man, Little Man did not remain in print for long, Baldwin was proud of his children's book. Melville House Press reports that he considered the book "a celebration of the self-esteem of black children," something that is all too lacking in today's media. In 2012, only 7.6 percent of children's books published in the U.S. were about black characters, a much lower percentage than the 12.3 percent of the U.S. population who are black. Is it any wonder, then, that there are so many movements for parents and children looking for books that highlight their experiences?
We need diverse books, and Little Man, Little Man is the perfect book to re-release in today's political climate. At a time when race-related hate crimes are on the rise, the portrayal of joyful black kids in James Baldwin's children's book shines a hopeful light into dark places.
Little Man, Little Man will hit store shelves once more in August 2018.