Review: The Skin You Live In Is a Kids’ Book for Today by Two Chicagoans

The Skin You Live In By Michael Tyler Illustrations by David Lee Csicsko Chicago Children’s Museum The Skin You Live In, a book targeted to 4- to 8-year olds, can be enjoyed by teens and adults as well. It was published in 2005 and reprinted frequently ever since. But with grownup books on white privilege and anti-racism on the best-seller list, this is the children’s book for 2020. It’s written by Chicago author Michael Tyler, whose bouncy rhymes are illustrated with David Lee Csicsko’s adorable colorful characters. It’s a celebration of skin of all colors and a way to teach kids that we’re all “special and different and just the same, too,” no matter the color of our outer layer. The book is a pleasant way to talk about important issues. Author Tyler said recently when the book was featured on WTTW: The book is “to promote acceptance, and I think that in this moment right now where we’ve seen division on a magnitude that we haven’t seen since 1968, this book can emerge as a tool for educators and parents to try to give that lesson to their children about acceptance.” And it’s also the kind of book, he said, that can give adults “a little internal audit themselves.” Here are some of Tyler’s rhymes that describe our fabulous variations in hue:
Hey, look at your skin The wonderful skin you live in! It’s whatever you do skin, be happy it’s you skin. You can’t live without it – I’m glad it’s me too skin! And look at the shades it comes in – the shades of your colorful skin! Your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin… Your chocolate chip, double dip sundae supreme skin! Your marshmallow treat skin, your spun sugar sweet skin. Your cherry topped, candy dropped, frosting complete skin. Your pumpkin pie slice skin, your caramel corn nice skin Your toffee wrapped, ginger snapped, cinnamon spice skin!  
Tyler is a Chicago freelance writer focusing on social and political issues and commentary. He has also written Water for the Soul: A Father’s Hope for His Son (a collection of life-lessons and observations) and Sow the Seeds: A Composition in Verse (a poetry journal), and he was the ghostwriter for Fries, Thighs & Lies: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Getting The Skinny On Fat (with Deborah Arneson, clinical nutritionist). He is currently working on a novel trilogy as well as other children’s books, television pilots and screenplays. Csicsko is a Chicago-based designer and artist who has worked in a wide variety of projects at nearly every scale, from small privately commissioned prints to his more recent explorations in large-scale stained glass and mosaics. He says his work celebrates the “diversity and richness of the human imagination, and expresses the joys of life through his dynamic use of color, bold graphics and playful patterns.” The Skin You Live In is published by the Chicago Children’s Museum. They’ve announced a reprint of the hard copy edition will be available in August. For now, the book is available as an e-book. (Personally, I much prefer reading an actual book to my grandsons.) The book is hard cover (the 2019 reprint has a dust jacket) and the size is 9.5 by 9.25 inches. Watch the Children’s Museum website for availability of the new printing. You’ll also be able to order it online and from your favorite bookseller. And if you’d like your own personal reading of The Skin You Live In, the author will read it to you himself.
Picture of the author
Nancy S Bishop

Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.