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WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE? by Vera Kochan

WHAT IF YOUR BEST FRIEND WERE BLUE?

By Vera Kochan (Author) , Viviana Garofoli (Illustrator)

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7614-5897-5
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

This simple picture book is intended to teach both color awareness—of shades such as blue, green and yellow—and color-blindness in terms of skin tones. It doesn’t work.

The book begins by asking, “What if your best friend were blue?” The child narrator answers, “Even if my best friend were blue, he’d still play soccer with me.” The nominal dialogue continues: “What if a policewoman were green?” “Even if a policewoman were green, she’d still help me find my mom and dad.” The book continues exactly like this, featuring a yellow doctor, a purple fireman, a red teacher and an orange babysitter. The intended message of this title is highjacked by two little words, repeated again and again: “even if.” This phrase, suggesting as it does that a best friend would still play soccer despite his blue-ness and the policewoman still provide a helping hand despite her green-ness, does not undermine homogeneity, but rather confirms whiteness as humankind’s default skin color. Further contributing to this notion is the fact that the main character is white, as are all the other adults and children who are not being used to demonstrate a particular color; skin tones aside from white that actually show up in the real world are absent entirely. Even the lessons in identifying colors fall apart here. The policewoman who is supposed to be green actually first appears as an off-putting shade of yellow.

A big miss. (Picture book. 4-8)