WHITE WASH by Ntozake Shange


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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 Shange (for adults, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, 1977, etc.) based the Carnegie Medalwinning video--here turned with startling success into a cutting picture book with the cels as illustrations--on a series of true incidents. Helene-Angel's day in a mixed-race elementary school proceeds typically until she's walking home behind her brother, Mauricio, ``so I wouldn't be mistaken for his girl, you know.'' The Hawks, a white gang, knock Mauricio aside and spray-paint Helene-Angel's face white. At home, Grandma cleans her up and allows her sanctuary in her room, whispering comforting words through a closed door as the incident is publicized outside Helene-Angel's window. After a week, Grandma insists that she open the door ``and be strong.'' Believing herself an embarrassment, Helene-Angel opens the door to find her whole class there, smiling and pledging support before they sweep her onto the street and off to school. Seeing Mauricio hanging back ``like a dog with his tail between his legs,'' Helene-Angel grabs his hand: ``You know, we've got a right to be here, too''--a somewhat formal assertion, given the raw emotion that has informed the rest of the book. The book's a shocker, and it means to be. Young readers will be demolished by what happens to Helene-Angel, and reassured by the reactions and behavior of her grandmother and classmates. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8027-8490-9
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997


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