This is one of the first books that made up my son’s library and we started reading it to him at a very young age. It actually was one of my own mom’s books from when she taught preschool before he was even born (hence her name on the cover).
In this story, a young girl named Lena makes sense of her own skin and thus her world by learning to mix paint colors to match that of the skin colors of herself, her mother, and the friends and people in her community. This is an example of an outsider as an author and the importance of doing so carefully and authentically, as in this story, Lena’s immediate identification towards skin color and physical appearance is problematic. Furthermore, the author flirts with stereotypes by having the community’s pizza shop owner be Italian. However, due to the honest and happy nature that each character is ultimately represented and the fact that no behavior is stereotyped in any negative manner, this would most likely be seen as a positive cultural representation of children’s literature.The colorful illustrations featuring exaggerated faces and bright scenery in this book by Katz are what make this book stand out along with the descriptive language using many universal descriptors highlighting food to describe each person’s different skin tones, such as peanut butter, peaches, chocolate cupcakes, ginger, toffee, and so much more.
I felt that the overall broad representation of multicultural characters was positive and that a child reading this book would be able to identify themselves in one of these characters in one way or another. Some of the criticisms seen were minor and it would not be enough not to shelf it in a children’s section in a library or school as the overall arching theme that “we’re different but the same,” sends a much more positive message.
Activity Corner: Used in a school or library, this book would be a great way to use art in a multicultural sense by having the children draw or paint themselves and then create some kind of classroom tapestry or flag based on the Colors of Us.