This Book Is Gray
“There's a lot of charm in the art and text, and readers will be inspired to color their own story, including gray in their palette.”
Lindsay Ward sets out to show how rich a color plain gray can be in This Book Is Gray. Although the text includes the language of color theory, from primary and secondary colors to groan-inducing puns—“Please stop complimenting each other! It's distracting . . .”—the message is ultimately about inclusion. The bright colors all feel like they're more important and try to impose their vision on Gray, who is trying to write their own story, using only gray characters (a hippo, wolf, and kitten), an all gray setting, and a pretty gray plot.
First the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, show up and declare Gray's story “gloomy” and “kind of depressing.” Then secondary colors, pink, purple, and orange give their own advice, suggesting, of course, that the story needs color. Finally, the achromatic colors, black and white, insist they have a place in a gray book. In fact, black is already present on the first page in the hippo's toes, the kitten's eyes, the blades of grass, and the mailbox. And there is white in the clouds and foam on the waves. But this is conveniently forgotten when Gray pushes Black and White out, insisting, “Sorry, guys, this book is gray.”
When White causes a whiteout, obliterating the story's grayness with a snowstorm, Gray has had it with all the interference. Gray erupts, “NO, NO, NO! THIS BOOK IS GRAY LIKE ME! WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND. . . . I JUST WANTED TO SHOW YOU WHAT I CAN DO . . . GRAY IS A COOL COLOR, TOO, YOU KNOW?!”
The other colors finally understand what Gray is trying to do. They apologize and clear up the whiteout with colors that make the gray characters stand out more than ever. In the end, all the colors play happily together, appreciating what each has to offer. The moral may be a bit heavy-handed, but the colors are fun characters and young readers will respond to both the message and the story.
The constant use of “Dude” in the colors' dialogue quickly becomes grating and may date this book sooner than would have happened without the heavy use of slang (besides “dude,” there's also “rad,” “man,” “totally,” and even “totally awesome.”). Some judicious editing could have made this story more timeless while keeping the humor and accessibility the author is clearly trying for. Still, there's a lot of charm in the art and text and readers will be inspired to color their own story, including gray in their palette.