CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009
Tania Duprey Stehlik. Illustrated by Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2009.
24 pp., hardcover, $14.95.
Racially mixed children-Juvenile fiction.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Reesa Cohen.
Violet poked her nose out from under the blankets. This was the day she had been dreading ever since they'd moved into the new house.
"Rise and Shine!" her mom called from the doorway. "You don't want to be late on the first day of school."
"I don't feel so good," Violet moaned. "My stomach hurts."
"It's just a few butterflies," her mom said. "They'll disappear."
"Oh, it's worse than that. It's serious...maybe even contagious!"
"Nice try, Missy! But you're going. Up you get!"
Violet's misgivings and queasiness stems from the fact that she is going to a new school and is concerned with making new friends. She even hopes her lunch is "extra good" so that she might be able to use it as a trade to her quest to make friends.
When Violet arrives at school, she sees many different coloured kids... red kids, yellow kids, blue kids, but this does not ease her concern because she is the only one who is purple. The school day passes quickly, and she waits with her classmates for her dad to pick her up. When he arrives, one of the girls from her class asks, "How come your Dad is blue and you're not?"
Violet's confusion increases as she wonders why she isn't blue or even red like her mom, but instead is purple. Her mom helps to diminish her worries by showing her what happens when you mix colours, and new ones are created: "If you take red and mix in a little blue, you get a lovely purply-violet."
Like many other children in the world, Violet is a wonderful mix of colours!
This topic is special to the author as her own mixed heritage inspired Violet's story.
Stehlik takes on this issue for the very young in a simple, yet unusual way. She has used colour as a metaphor for race or skin tones to explain how children who come from diverse races and cultures may indeed look quite different from their parents and other kids, but that such a difference can be beautiful and special. The story's innovative and fresh approach succeeds in imparting an important, but timeless message. Violet provides a chance for readers to explore this topic with the help of parents and teachers.
Jovanovic's art captures this colourful world with wild, exuberant digital illustrations featuring double page spreads of strangely shaped kids that are portrayed with long skinny limbs. The whimsical drawings are full of fun details, add a comical twist and are as inventive as the story line.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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