My daughter loves this book, and so do I. It’s about a seven year old girl (hey mom, I’m seven, too! says Lilly) named Lena whose mother is an artist. Her mother (who is the color of french toast) tells her that if she mixes red, white, black and yellow paint together in the right amounts, it will make the right shade of brown to match her skin.
The right shade of brown? Lena asks. But mom, brown is brown.
Not so, says her mother. They take a walk around their neighborhood to look at all the different shades of people. There’s Lena’s best friend Sonia , who is the shade of creamy peanut butter. Her other friend, Jo-Jin, is the color of honey. Lucy is peachy and tan. Carlos and Rosita are butterscotch and cocoa. Aunt Kathy is tawny, like coconuts and coffee. Isabella is like the chocolate cupcakes they had for her recent birthday. And many more friends with beautiful, delicious sounding colors.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pretty darn discouraged (appalled is probably the better word) lately about what’s happening in our country, as well as the wider world. It makes me exceedingly sad that I have to explain to my daughter why people hate and do terrible things to each other. And I really don’t have a good explanation; there is none. It all boils down to the color of a person’s skin. Or who they love, or what god they worship, or that they hate broccoli. Okay, I made that last one up, but the other reasons are just as irrational and stupid.
I don’t want Lilly to know these things. I don’t want her innocence to be shattered. Right now, when she looks at other people, she just sees…well, people. In all their beautiful, delectable variety. Karen Katz has written a wonderful book that captures that simple truth.