Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shades of People : Book Review



How fitting with all my focus on shades this week that this book should come into my hands. Special thanks to Kirsten Cappy and Curious City for hosting the multicultural book fair where I came in contact with this book today.

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Have you noticed that people come in many different shades? Not colors exactly, but shades.
These are the opening words from the beaming photographic montage of preschool to early elementary aged faces on the pages of the luscious and diverse new children’s book by Shelley Rotner and Shelia Kelley. Like Karen Katz’s The Colors of Us, Rotner and Kelley succeed in presenting a fresh approach to the message that all children are remarkable, and that; “Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper.” When I first held this book in my hands bathed by the warm light from the pages of this "It's a Small World After All" like photographic celebration, I felt as if a void in our family's library had just been magically filled.

Page after page of dynamically arranged photographs present children of every background tenderly engaged with peers and blended family of all shades. The variety of the size and arrangement of the photos add to the allure. My personal favorites being the side by side museum like 10" x12" size portraits. All the photographs give our children a place to see themselves over and over again in charming sun drenched moments.

The minimal text is powerful in it’s brevity with lines like; “Even in the same family there can be many shades.” As a backdrop to that line is a spread of photographs showing blended families of all kinds that look like the pages of the Adoptive Families Magazine photo albums. All kids will see themselves here with dynamic confidence-whatever skin they are in!

I did not hesitate to buy a copy for my sons’ preschool for the spelled out message of inclusion, acceptance and diversity. There are so many teachable moments included-like the thoughtful photograph of a young African-American boy holding a paint brush creating a self portrait. Under his photo appears the line; “It’s hard to get the right shade when I paint." Shades of People is a living palette that all children can see themselves as the perfect shade of "gold", "almond", "tan" or "cream".

Having such an emotionally satisying visual and narrative experience the reader will not be surprised to discover that Kelley has a background spanning thirty years as a clinical psychologist, while Rotner published her photography in National Geographic Magazine and the like. This is a dynamic work that I trust will become a mainstay in the homes and schools of our blended families for years to come. In the words of a multi racial two year old and his brother while overlaying their hands on photos of the childrens hands in the sand on the end page; "I am there and there and there and there." Indeed.

1 comment:

Joyful Mom said...

Thank you for sharing that. I just put Shades of People on my girls' Xmas list.