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In this charming children’s picture book inspired by the life of Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison (1931-2019), Small-Girl Toni tells her family and her siblings, “My stories are going to change the world.”

With her wild imagination, Small-Girl Toni spins stories about ghosts, grizzly bears, and a girl with licorice hair. Her adult neighbors respond in different ways. Some tell her to stop coming up with outlandish tales; others encourage her to tell another story. Some say “a story’s just a mess of words.” Others question how she’ll change the world when she can’t make change for a quarter.

Though Small-Girl Toni is frustrated by negative responses, she chooses to dream up new stories. She says to her brothers and sister, “Stories can change the world! Grown-ups say that stories can’t save jobs or build nicer places to stay, but if my stories have gotten me sent to the principal’s office, and to bed without supper, maybe they can lead me to a whole heap of treasure. Then we could make safer spots for kids to play! We could find people to check on the old folks each day! Or maybe I could spin a yarn so splendid, so spectacular, it would be worth its weight in gold!”

And so, the quest for gold begins. At each place they seek treasure, Small-Girl Toni tells a story—old Miz Solomon doesn’t have a belly button and she has magical powers, and each day at noon old Miz Sersee turns her dogs into creatures made of gold. Though the siblings don’t find gold, they receive golden pears and shiny copper coins. But their gilded day is blighted when the white owner of the corner store refuses to serve them when they ask to buy gold-colored candies.

The children return home, disgruntled and unhappy. But as Small-Girl Toni notices her happy parents and sunny marigolds in the garden, and as she smells buttery pound cake, she has an epiphany. She understands that her true wealth is found in her family, her stories, and her community.

Author Giselle Anatol’s delightful reimagining of Toni Morrison’s childhood subtly explores racial discrimination in an age-sensitive way. Illustrator Raissa Figueroa’s golden artwork captures the vivid contours of Small-Girl Toni’s imaginative mind and the loving family of which she is a part. Young children will see in this book hints of the biblical truth that all people, no matter their race or ethnicity, are to be respected and cherished as God’s image bearers. (Viking Books for Young Readers)

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