A Taste of Colored Water

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Overview

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Set in the early 1960s, Faulkner's (The Pirate Meets the Queen) thought-provoking tale presents a study in contrasts and uncomfortable realities. Initial spreads open buoyantly, with cheery scenes of two barefoot cousins playing marbles and enjoying soda pop. An acquaintance tells Jelly and LuLu, the narrator, about her trip to the big city, where she saw "a sign, clear as day, hanging over a water bubbler that read colored." Jelly and Lulu are entranced: "Cherry, lemon, orange and apple-all those flavors in one gulp!" Lulu imagines. Only older readers might have registered unease at the cover art, featuring rainbow-hued water gushing from a fountain, a gallows-like frame supporting the "colored" sign above it. The cousins' eventual visit to the city coincides with a civil rights demonstration, where police with batons and firemen with hoses face off against protesters. Pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations introduce irony and symbolism that may be lost on younger audiences, e.g., a billboard advertises Snowy White soap, "100% pure"; wrought-iron ornamentation announces the city's name as Eden. The climactic scene of a policeman, replete with snarling dog, screaming at the (white) cousins just as they are about to taste the magical water, cracks any veneer of innocence. As it does for the characters, this disturbing lesson leaves readers with lots to ponder. An eloquent afterword bridges the gap between the readers' experience and their knowledge of the civil rights era. Ages 6-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
This complex tale is set in a small town in the rural South in 1960, the beginning of the active civil rights struggles. Two cousins named Jelly and Lulu are anxious to go into town and see the colored water their friend Abby has told them about. She said she saw a water fountain in town with a sign above it that read “Colored.” Lulu and Jelly get their chance when Uncle Jack needs to go into town for a tractor part. When they get there, they witness a disturbance surrounding a civil rights march. Plenty of shouting and meanness is going on so Uncle Jack insists they stay in the truck, but they have other ideas. When they find the water fountain with the odd sign, they attempt to take a drink, but an angry policeman with a dog yells at them to get away from the fountain for coloreds. The whole scene is confusing and frightening to them, plus Uncle Jack is mad at them for leaving the truck. The issues are not resolved in the story, so teachers and parents who read this story to youngsters must be knowledgeable and prepared to explain this challenging time in American history. If you did not live through it, it is a difficult task. The drawings help place the reader within the milieu of the South that is both peaceful and frightening. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 1-5- Childhood innocence collides with the realities of racial hatred in this sensitive story. In a small Southern 1960s town, Jelly and LuLu thrill to their friend's tales of visiting the big city and seeing "water bubblers" labeled "Colored," and they vow to find a way to taste such miraculous water for themselves. "Cherry, lemon, orange, and apple-all those flavors in one gulp!" LuLu muses. The white cousins get their chance when Jelly's father needs to pick up a part for his tractor, and they arrive in the midst of a civil rights march. The kids find a water fountain labeled "Colored" on a hill, and, as LuLu steps forward to drink from it, she sees the marchers meet the police in the street below-and sees firefighters turn their hoses on the marchers. A police officer shoos the children away ("That water ain't for you. It's for coloreds!"), and the frightened family heads home. The author focuses on this small, frightening moment, when LuLu's insulated world is smashed open, and the story begs to be discussed. An afterword gives historical context. Faulkner's scratchy watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations burst with sepia-toned folksy charm, but they also point up the ironies of the time, as when a police officer on a motorcycle lingers menacingly next to a soap billboard proclaiming "Snowy White! 100% Pure!" Readers will ask, as Jelly does, "What color does a person have to be to get a taste of colored water?"-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hearing tell of a fountain in the big city billed "colored," two country children decide that they have to see such a marvel in this 1960s-era tale. LuLu and her cousin Jelly hitch a ride with Jelly's father, and while he runs an errand, they do indeed find a bubbler with a sign right outside City Hall. Before the children can take a taste, though, they witness a violent confrontation between sign-carrying marchers and police wielding fire hoses. Another officer with a snarling dog pushes them away: "That water ain't for you. It's for coloreds!" Using crosshatching and loosely brushed watercolors, Faulkner creates a period setting with roadside billboards (complete with speed traps) and old-style cars. He adds pointed details like the words "Justice" and "Truth" carved into the City Hall steps and creates an engaging pair of fresh-faced young folk whose open expressions change to fright and then exhaustion as they make their way safely back home. To spark discussion, and perhaps even fill in clueless adults, the author closes with a frank explanation in tiny type and a plea to question "all forms of intolerance." It's a salutary theme, handled here with terrific appeal. (Picture book. 6-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416916291
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 267,358
  • Age range: 6 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Matt Faulkner is a talented and clever picture-book maker whose dazzling ink and watercolor illustrations have graced dozens of well-loved picture books. On his inspiration for A Taste of Colored Water, he says, "When I was a boy it would've surprised me to learn that the word COLORED hung over a water fountain didn't mean that this was a magical place where fruit-flavored water flowed on demand." This story has grown out of his lifelong exploration of race and societal intolerance and the questions these institutions raise. His more recent work features several titles that focus on United States history, including Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson and You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George. He lives in Oakland, California, with his son.

Matt Faulkner is a talented and clever picture-book maker whose dazzling ink and watercolor illustrations have graced dozens of well-loved picture books. On his inspiration for A Taste of Colored Water, he says, "When I was a boy it would've surprised me to learn that the word COLORED hung over a water fountain didn't mean that this was a magical place where fruit-flavored water flowed on demand." This story has grown out of his lifelong exploration of race and societal intolerance and the questions these institutions raise. His more recent work features several titles that focus on United States history, including Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson and You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George. He lives in Oakland, California, with his son.

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