Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pink is for boys by Robb Pearlman, illustrated by Eda Kaban

Ostensibly, this is a book that's supposed to make kids feel that all genders can do anything. Unfortunately, it doesn't really work out that way.

In the first spread, the title is repeated and expanded: "Pink is for boys. And girls." A pink-hued room is shown with the light-skinned boy and dark-skinned girl of the cover dressed in fancy clothes, the girl in a pink dress with long sash and the boy in light pink shirt and bow-tie. The following page expands this theme with the two playing piano for a roomful of dancing children, the girls all in pink party dresses, the boys in pink shirts, bowties, and dark pants.

In the third spread and second color, "Blue is for girls. And boys." A blonde, freckled girl and Asian boy are shown in dirty baseball unicorns with blue sleeves against a blue sky. The following page shows a whole team of mixed genders and races with blue-sleeved baseball games against a green field.

The theme continues - yellow is a fantasy castle, with a prince and princess wearing crowns. Green shows a boy handing a girl a flower and then the two racing through the woods together. Red is for racing cars. Orange is a popsicle stand. Purple has a blonde boy in a wheelchair with a unicorn balloon, which he imagines riding through the sky with an orange-haired girl. Brown is a giant teddy bear. Black and white shows two white children petting cats and dogs. The final spread brings together all the children from the book enjoying all the colors together.

The pictures are bright and colorful, with swatches of color and splashes of leaves, sky, and cities across the background. There is an attractive diversity of race, size, and one representation of a physical disability.

So, what's the problem? Well, if the book had been intended to reinforce traditional gender roles and the colors usually paired with them, then it would be fine. But that's not what the book is supposed to do. When "pink" is described, it automatically goes with a girl wearing a fancy dress. A boy wearing a pink bowtie is not exactly claiming the color for both genders. Blue is associated with baseball, a traditionally male color for a traditionally male sport. Strict gender division is seen again in yellow, with a traditional prince and princess. It's also problematic that the only physically disabled child is shown as dreaming of being without his disability, not actually doing anything. Some of the colors are more neutral, but the tone set by the first few overshadows the rest of the book.

Verdict: The illustrations are lovely, but the book falls short of its message; and, in my experience, kids are more influenced by teachers and parents, not stories, when it comes to "boy colors" and "girl colors". An additional purchase if you have a large audience for didactic stories.

ISBN: 9780762462476; Published June 5, 2018 by Running Press; F&G provided by publisher

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