Matt Faulkner’s A Taste of Colored Water is an engaging story about an important issue. When Abbey Finch informs Jelly and LuLu that she saw a fountain of colored water in the big city, they decide they need to see it for themselves. It’s probably just one of Abbey’s crazy stories, but what if isn’t? Can you imagine a fountain of water all the colors of the rainbow? And probably the flavor of assorted fruits! So they decide to tag along the next time Uncle Jack has to drive to the city. But Jelly and Lulu live in the south during the civil rights movement. And the “colored” sign over their fountain of water, is just part of the unfair Jim Crow laws popular there at the time. It’s an unfortunate discovery for them to make. Being children, they wonder “what color does a person have to be to get a taste of colored water?”
If I Ran the Rain Forest by Bonnie Worth is a selection from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, a wonderful series of books for young readers. These books are entertaining and educational, presenting non-fiction concepts in a basic format to help children build ideas about the natural world. In If I Ran the Rain Forest, the much loved Dr. Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat, is here to tell you about a fascinating part of the world, filled with life! The rain forest is brimming with enormous trees, which are home to amazing creatures, like parrots, monkeys, and frogs. However, this fantastic place is threatened–people are cutting down trees, and so the Cat tells us, if he ran the rain forest he’d say “chop somewhere else, people. Leave us these trees. Don’t cut them down. Save the trees, please!”
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria is a fascinating story published partly in braille. A boy named Thomas describes the world around him in terms of what he feels, smells, hears, and tastes. People who are sighted tend to take visions of simple things like fruit or rain for granted, but with this book one can imagine what it’s like to be blind. The pages of black drawings on black paper can serve as a gateway to discussing tolerance for people with disabilities with your child.
Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley, illustrated by Judy Stead, is a great way to teach your child that people with disabilities are still people. Our narrator is a second grader who’s teacher asks her to show “the new girl” around. She is surprised to see that “the new girl,” Sarah, was in a wheelchair. At first she didn’t know what to do, but once she got to know Sarah, she discovered they had a lot in common! They became best friends and now do all their favorite things together: painting, reading, having sleepovers, scrapbooking, and hot air balooning! They even go dancing–Sarah loves ballet–“Shes spins on her wheels and twirls every which way.” Some people only see a wheelchair when they look at Sarah, but our narrator only sees her best friend.
You may have already heard about And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It was the most challenged book of 2008. If you’re at all curious to see what the fuss was about, I highly recommend you check it out, because beneath all the controversy this is a story for children about an unconventional family of penguins. Roy and Silo were two real male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who played surrogate fathers to an egg, helping to bring little Tango into the world, and you can still visit them all today in New York City! Heartwarming illustrations provided by Henry Cole.