A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023
Based on the viral poem by Coretta Scott King honoree Junauda Petrus, this picture book debut imagines a radically positive future where police aren’t in charge of public safety and community well-being.
Petrus first published and performed this poem after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. With every subsequent police shooting, it has taken on new urgency, culminating in the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, blocks from Junauda's home.
In its picture book incarnation, Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers? is a joyously radical vision of community-based safety and mutual aid. It is optimistic, provocative, and ultimately centered in fierce love. Debut picture book artist Kristen Uroda has turned Junauda's vision for a city without precincts into a vibrant and flourishing urban landscape filled with wise and loving grandmothers of all sorts.
Lush, luminous, and celebratory, the words and images of this poem turned picture book offer a powerful meditation on intergenerational bonds and community care. In jewel-bright illustrations, Uroda interprets Petrus's vision of grandmothers as peacekeepers who drive "badass" classic cars, play "old-school jams" including Patti LaBelle and Stevie Wonder, and who—in response to trouble—"will pick you up swiftly in their sweet rides and look at you until you catch shame," then "ask you if you are hungry." In this moving portrait of a precinct-free world, there are, instead, "just love temples with spaces to meditate and eat delicious food." There, grandmas, who help with homework and pass on various lessons, ensure that "All the hungry bellies will know warmth. All the children will expect love." Sun-splashed and star-strewn scenes depict a brown-skinned cast of grandmothers, who present across ages and gender expressions, capturing the vivacious energy of elders "comfortable in loving fiercely" that's reflected in the language's soaring weightlessness. Ages 4–8.