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Whitewash Hardcover – January, 1998
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2AHelene-Angel has to wait for her older brother Mauricio to walk her home from school. Neither of them like this arrangement. One day the Hawks, a gang of white thugs, beat up Mauricio and spray white paint on Helene-Angel's face. "I was dripping white. Really itchy, stinging white paint covered me wherever my brown skin used to be." Her grandmother's comforting words are not enough to help the girl handle her fear and humiliation. She closes herself away from her family and friends for a week. When her classmates come to the house to escort her back to school, Helene-Angel realizes that others care about her pain. Adults could use this story for a lesson in tolerance, resolving unanswered questions, and preparing young children for some of life's cruel realities. The large colorful gouache illustrations with bold black outlines and deep red borders have been done by an animation producer. Some facial expressions convey strong emotions while others are simple lines, characteristic of cartoon art. The full-length award-winning video is probably the better medium for this story, but the book will be available to a wider audience.AMarie Wright, University Library, Indianapolis, IN
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
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) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Top customer reviews
If you want a way to really address social justice issues in a classroom or with a group of children this book will not disappoint you. Because this book is powerful, it should lead to much to discussion so if you are going to read this book to children make sure you are fully prepared to engage the children in a lively discussion. This IS NOT a book to just read for fun. You are not doing you or the children you read this book to, any justice if you do not discuss the issues this book presents. I know the book is quite costly so I suggest picking up this book from the library. This book is must read.
This is a story of Helene-Angel, a girl damaged by a terrible racial incident. Helene-Angel and her older brother Mauricio were walking home from school when a gang surrounded them. The boys called them racial names and shoved Mauricio out of the way while they painted Helene-Angels' face white. Even after her grandmother scrubbed her face, she could still feel the itchy white paint. Her grandmother recalls the stories she told them about the beat-up bleeding black children in the South, but she had never seen a black girl painted white. Helene-Angel would not come out of her room for a week, her grandmother left food by the door and whispered sweet things to her. She reminded Helene-Angel that she was beautiful, brave, and a hero of her race. On Monday, her grandmother made her come out of her room and told her to be strong. Helene-Angel went outside to play with her classmates, who were very supportive. She held her brothers' hand and said, "WE'VE GOT A RIGHT TO BE HERE, TOO."
I highly recommend this book! Five stars doesn't do this book justice...it gets that for the illustrations alone. This is essential reading for children and adults.
Helene-Angel is a young, urban African-American girl. She and her brother Mauricio are attacked by a gang of racist white kids who paint the girls' face a ghostly shade of white. The story deals with the aftermath of this repulsive crime.
Shange has clearly approached this troubling material with admirable intentions, but I found the results unsatisfying. I felt that the ultimate message of racial reconciliation was not powerful enough to offset the nature of the crime. And a significant plot thread is left hanging. I fear that this book may be too upsetting for some kids; I recommend parental or teacher guidance.