I See Color

Image of I See Color
Release Date: 
June 4, 2024
Reviewed by: 

White people have a lot to learn about people of color, both in history and today. This book might very well help some of us understand.”

I See Color is a book for young children that also works on another level for adults. The simple text has a rhythmic quality to it that children will appreciate. “Cool like an autumn breeze/ warm like the summer sun/ steady like the night/ rising like the dawn/ beautiful like a quilt of stitched-together stories. /I see color./” The quilt line is the most concrete and the best line on Page One.

The different color descriptions sound like names of paint chips in a hardware store: powdered oak, rich sepia, cool amber, radiant bronze, tawny brown. “I see smoky quartz, writing the words that would change history and standing up for those words until people listened.” Not understanding what this means, the reader can see the name of the people at the bottom of the page and turn to the back matter to find out who they were and what they did. Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich were not allowed to own a home in Alaska because they were not white. They spoke and traveled all over Alaska until the “passing of the United States’ very first anti-discrimination law.”

I See Color is an important book for this very reason. These are names of people of color who have done things to promote themselves and fight for equal treatment, names that were not taught in school 50 years ago, names that should be well-known but are not.

Sue Ko Lee fought for better conditions and pay in her job as a buttonhole machine operator in a factory in San Francisco. Fred Korematsu did not want to go to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. This is a lot of history for a four-year-old child, even an eight-year-old child. Although it is a picture book, this information could be used in higher grades in a history or language arts class. Each student could be assigned to speak to the class about each person presented in this book.

The 30 or so leaders of color are shown on the pages, their names in small fonts at the bottom of each page. The names are there more for the parent or teacher than for the child reading the book, or having it read to them. The leaders include Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther king Jr., Malcom X, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Cicely Tyson, Shirley Chisholm. These are known leaders of color. Then there are all the rest, unfamiliar names to this reviewer. Kudos to HarperCollins for publishing a book that explains who these voices in history were, shameful that in America that we don’t know each of their names already.

A beautiful adjective with a beautiful noun following it won’t mean much to young kids. Some of the terms are too abstract for them, such as deep umber, alabaster rose, soft suede, and gleaming stardust. Teens and adults will get it, four-to-eight-year-old kids, not so much.

The book is gorgeous with warm shades of browns, tans, yellows, and purples. The illustrator captures the images of the famous ones: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Shirley Chisholm—probably all of the names mentioned.

The introductory page, which explains that people saying they don’t see color actually “erases a big part of who that person is” is powerful. Lesson learned.cWhite people have a lot to learn about people of color, both in history and today. This book might very well help some of us understand.