Written and illustrated by Lindsay Ward
This book is unique in its storytelling because it’s almost like a comic strip in picture book form. It shows the main character, Gray, trying to write a book to prove that he ought to be considered an essential color like the other colors. He is interrupted many times while several other colors argue about whether or not Gray should even be allowed to make his book. Those other colors pretty intensely bully him for several pages as they tear apart his story, using some pretty dark humor, like talking about the animals gray has illustrated in his story eating a kitten he also put into the story. They say things like, “‘Is the wolf going to EAT the kitten? Because I feel like that’s where this is going’” and “‘So, like, what are these animals going to eat…? ‘I’m guessing the kitten.’”. The only way that gray gets them to stop is by finally getting angry himself and shouting at them- he learns to just fight back in order to resolve his conflict.If you don’t like that, I would avoid this book.
The characters use some pretty big vocabulary words (like bleak, dismal, monochromatic, etc.) and the book switches gears when Gray loses patience and finally shouts that he just wants to be seen as a color (which is not a good coping mechanism for bullying). Just like that, all the colors start illustrating together and realize that a book can be gray and colorful.
Overall, it’s not a good portrayal of handling bullying, but we see all the colors eventually appreciate each other.
This book is highly rated online because of the final message that all colors should be appreciated and that we need all of the colors to create a beautiful picture. However, I do not feel that it is good for kids because of the intense bullying of gray in the beginning from the other colors. So even though the book arrives at a positive ending, I don’t think kids should read the negative examples through the entire beginning and middle. Even if you are somebody who believes that the approach of fighting back works to counter bullying, children struggle to understand when something only applies in certain situations- they tend to overextend principles and not understand that they shouldn’t be practiced all the time. This book could potentially model negative behavior of the intense bullying and getting angry to resolve conflict that they could apply to inappropriate situations.
During the reading:
- You may need to define some of the higher level vocabulary words as they come up so that your child can gain more out of the reading and aren’t just following along without understanding exactly what the characters are talking about. A good practice is to first ask your child if they know what the word means and if they say yes, to define it, so that you can see where you need to fill in the gaps of their knowledge before assuming what they already know or don’t know.
- When you get to the pages where the characters talk about the animals eating the kitten (which is repeated many times), you would choose to skip that if it might be upsetting to your child.
- Once Gray becomes really angry and shouts at all the other characters, it would be a good idea to explain to your child that yelling at others and getting really mad isn’t a good way to solve problems with others. You could ask them what they think Gray should do and suggest some alternative solutions yourself in order to counteract that negative message.
- Ask your child to find each color in turn on the pages where all the colors work together! Talk about how when they all use their different colors, the whole picture is so beautiful, but if they were missing any colors, it wouldn’t be as pretty. Then it would be helpful to make the connection between the colors and people — show them how just like the colors, when people are kind to each other work together, things turn out better because of their differences! If you have a specific example of that principle in your child’s life, that would be really great to bring up, and see what your child thinks about it! Maybe you could mention a friend of theirs who has differences that makes playing with them more fun.
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Have you tried any of these ideas? Comment below to share how they worked for your family!