Children’s Books with a Message – Review by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
Pink is Just a Color and So is Blue
by Niki Bhatia
Using humor and sweet rhyming verse, Pink is Just a Color and so is Blue addresses the issues of gender stereotypes, tolerance, anti-bullying and self confidence. Inspired by the author’s 6 year old son who loves the color pink and many “girl’s toys,” the message of the book is that toys and colors, do not, or should not, define who kids are. Toys are merely a means of exploring and learning about the bigger world. So what if a boy likes playing with dolls? So what if a little girl enjoys building and crashing? Boys need to grow up to be nurturing men and little girls to be confident women someday. Done in monochromatic pinks and blues, with only the main characters in color, the beautiful illustrations convey that we need to look beyond this world of pink and blue, and just focus on the children who are having fun and learning.
Teaching kids to be open minded at a young age means that they will less likely bully others for their individual differences or choices. At the end of the book, there are follow up activities, discussion questions and interesting facts about fashion trends in history.
I truly love the message gleaned from this book! Everyone is an individual and is entitled to express themselves however they choose (within legal limits). I had only gender neutral toys in my home until my son went on playdates and discovered trucks and race cars. Then the “boy gene,” (if there really is one) surfaced! Had my son been disinterested in trucks and cars, but chose dolls to play with instead, I would have nurtured that sensitive side of him.
You can’t even buy boys clothing above age eight that aren’t dark blue, grey, black, dark red, olive or khaki. With girls the same age, the other side of the clothing store looks like a rainbow with glittery pinks and purples in abundance. Clothing manufacturers don’t even give a child the choice of what colors they can wear! My son happens to look great in bright colors. Where can I find them? The girls section. It is utterly frustrating.
I chose to include the story below, written by the author, from her blog. It sends a very powerful message about one child, in particular, who experienced gender bias firsthand. I felt it important to include this excerpt with her book review for parents to understand the biases all children are facing today. Pink is Just a Color and So is Blue is one book every household should own and be read from again and again.
From the Author:
“Someone recently sent me an article about a controversy sparked by a picture of a little boy, Sam, wearing what appeared to be girl’s pink, zebra- striped flats. The picture, posted on Facebook, received overwhelming support and LIKES but stirred up a heated debate on the internet.
Poor Sam’s mom was criticized by family members who feared that this kind of behavior might turn him gay!! Wow, if that were true! Maybe THEY should read the article published in the journal Pediatrics about a study which found that “children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.”
Judging from the picture, Sam appears to be carefree and confident. He was quoted as saying, “Ninja’s can wear pink shoes too!” Yes, he is only 5 and five year olds do not understand they nuances of the adult world. Five year olds don’t understand racism, bigotry, discrimination or gender specifics. If they do, it’s only because they learned it from the adults around them. Really, if you think about it, most 3 and 4 year old boys would love playing with dolls, strollers and the kitchen sets. But somehow the dads, and moms too, feel that they need to be more manly and start overloading them with Ninja’s, dinosaurs, race cars and such. Otherwise they might become too soft!!
I don’t deny that men and women are inherently, biologically and hormonally different. In Sweden there was a movement at one school to do away with gender specific toys and practice gender neutrality in the preschool. Instead of addressing the kids as “him” or “her,” the teachers referred to the children as “friends”, by their first names, or as “hen” – a genderless pronoun borrowed from Finnish. I guess that would be like the English pronoun “it”? Gender neutrality, as it equates to gender equality, is good. But to totally deny our gender differences is wrong too. Being more gender neutral does not have to mean referring to ourselves as IT’s. Gender neutrality is also not an attack on our masculinity or femininity.
I have 2 boys and I see how different boys and girls can be. They play differently; they interact with each other differently. But is it because that is the way we have been programmed to believe for so long? Is it because WE steer our boys and girls in a certain path…or towards certain toys or colors…because of our expectations of what it means to be a man or a women.
The focus on Sam and his shoes makes me ask, is pink inherently a feminine color? In the early part of the 19th century, fashion magazines promoted pink as the perfect color for men. Red was considered a very strong, masculine color, and pink being derived from red, it was only natural! Blue, on the other hand, was considered cool and dainty. Go figure!! Maybe 50 years from now, after more incidences and debates instigated by the likes of Sam and my son, our society will decree that pink is gender neutral!!
Available exclusively on Amazon: $9.99
A Little Dachshund’s Tale
by April Leite
Pupwalks Founder Releases Delightful Children’s Book!
First-time author April Leite announces the first book in a new children’s series,
“A Little Dachshund’s Tale”
A Little Dachshund’s Tale takes readers on an adventure of how a very brave Frances Peabody came to live in New York City. Frances was a brave little dachshund who was born in a small New England town. Although she was very sick when she came into this world, Frances was able to overcome her illness, travel to different places, and make many friends. This book is just the beginning of A Little Dachshund’s Tale, as told by Frances and some of the people she encounters along the way. Look for more stories to come about this beloved little dog!
I happen to be currently reading the novel, “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron. From the beginning of A Little Dachshund’s Tale, I just couldn’t help but find parallels to Cameron’s book. In fact, such similar feelings began to surface as I continued to read about Frances! I presume that is one of the reasons I loved this book from the very first page!
Part of me wanted to read part of Cameron’s book to my 9-year-old son. Unfortunately, there are parts of that book that either my son would become too upset with or not fully understand. Here was a book, quite similar, that my son could read by himself, and conjure up some of the very same feelings I experienced reading Cameron’s book! My son loved A Little Dachshund’s Tale just as much as me! He is eagerly awaiting the publication of the next “Frances” book! Having a book narrated by an animal truly changes the interpretation of that book. You are brought fully into the story and are continually intrigued as to how the animal interprets life around them. Cameron proved this with his books and now April Leite is proving that this works equally well with books for children!
April Leite is a former teacher and early childhood care director turned founder of Pupwalks, a unique and personalized dog walking service in New York City.
The Pajamas of My Dreams
by Laurie Collins
illustrated by Margie Florini
Inspired by the Pajama Drive of children’s service agency Cradles to Crayons (C2C), librarian LAURIE COLLINS and fine artist MARGIE FLORINI have created THE PAJAMAS OF MY DREAMS, a soulful story illustrated in beautiful cut-paper collage that depicts children tucked in their beds wondering, “What will I be when I grow up?”
As the children drift off to sleep, they ponder what their futures hold; they dream of becoming artists, professional hockey players, doctors or master chefs. Tomorrow’s bakers see cupcakes and confections sprinkled on the pajamas of their dreams, while budding entomologists envision ants and butterflies on theirs. This classic picture book also considers those who don’t have the luxury of such dreams—children’s whose wishes are simpler and more immediate.
One of the first things to catch your eye of this wonderful book is the beautiful cut-paper collage artwork. Illustrated by the talented Margie Florini, each page mirrors the authors words in such a whimsical way. As you turn each page, you see children tucked into their beds with an array of cut-paper artwork surrounding them. You can actually “see” the children dreaming.
This lovely book goes beyond it’s artistic loveliness with thoughtful text. Words you would hope every child could dream about as they sleep. However, you find that although many children may be dreaming of being professionals one day, there are still children who go to sleep with pajamas that are too tight, are still hungry, and are cold. Reality strikes you when you realize that too many children cannot even dream of what they want to become. They go to sleep without the basic needs for restful dreaming.
Collins shares, “There is no lovelier point in the day for a caregiver than when they tuck a child into bed, read them a story, give them a kiss, and probably ‘one more drink of water.’ Then they watch them slip off into the world of their dreams. Cradles to Crayons made me realize that not all children have this privilege.”
Through this unique story’s familiar refrain and intricate cut-paper artwork, Collins and Florini share a message of hope for all children. To this end, the creative team is participating in a variety of events, story times and Pajama Drives tied to the good works of C2C and other like-minded charitable organizations. For more information, visit www.pajamasofmydreams.com and facebook.com/pajamasofmydreams.
Available at local and national booksellers and retailers, online booksellers and threebeanpress.com.
MotherhoodLater.com thanks these publishers and authors for allowing us to review these inspirational children’s books.
Tags: A Dog's Purpose, A Little Dachshund's Tale, animal narration, April Leite, Cara Potapshyn Meyers, clothing, Cradles to Crayons, cut-paper artwork, FaceBook, gender differences, Laurie Collins, Margie Florini, New York City, Niki Bhatia, Pink Is Just a Color and So Is Blue, Pupwalks, son, The Pajamas of My Dreams, W. Bruce Cameron