Barnes’ earnest, rather oblique text interrogating the use of colors as labels for people is at odds with its playful, naive collage art.
The clunky opening line reads, “I’m just a kid coloring the world in the pictures I drew. I look in my crayon box to see which one I’d be…I wonder if kids are colors too,” propelling readers into a lengthy rumination on whether elements of the natural world “see” a child as a color. “Am I a color to the sky? Am I a color in my dreams? Am I a color to the moon? Am I a color to the sea?” The ideological slant declares color an inadequate and limiting description or category for a human being. While a laudable message, it seems a rather abstract one for the intended child audience, though Nelson’s accompanying, playful and, yes, colorful, collage illustrations seem much more in tune with young children’s sensibilities. This title doesn’t measure up to other more developmentally appropriate titles prompting discussion about race, ethnicity and diversity. Let's Talk about Race, by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour (2005), and The Skin You Live in, by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko (2005), are just two of these.
The book has its heart in the right place, but its mind is too clearly focused on adult agendas and preoccupations. (Picture book. 5-8)