Indian American Harpreet Singh is a practicing Sikh and has a different color patka, or head covering, for every occasion.
He wears yellow when he feels sunny and cheerful, pink when he feels like celebrating, and red when he wants to feel brave. When his mother gets a job in a small snowy town across the country, Harpreet is apprehensive about the move despite his parents’ assurance that it will be an adventure. Harpreet begins to wear colors for not-so-happy occasions: He wears blue to the airport because he’s nervous and gray when he’s sad. Most often of all, however, Harpreet wears white, as he feels shy and doesn’t want to be seen. Will Harpreet ever feel like his cheerful self in his new home? Kelkar’s telling of Harpreet’s story is crisp and straightforward, and Marley’s bright illustrations tactfully and subtly convey cultural differences that make Harpreet feel different from and invisible to his peers. In the lunchroom scene with all the other children, for example, Harpreet has in front of him a large plate of traditional Indian chapati (bread) and dal (lentils), whereas his peers are shown munching on more “American” dishes (like cake). An afterword by Simran Jeet Singh, a scholar and professor of Sikhism, helps contextualize this story for readers who are not familiar with the religion.
This simple yet sensitive story about a child coming to terms with things beyond his control will resonate across cultures. (Picture book. 3-7)