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Whitewash

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFaye
This book tells the story of a racial hate crime from the perspective of the young victim, Helene-Angel. She and her brother were attacked by gang of Caucasian boys who beat her brother and painted her face white to show her how to be a white American. Based on a series of true events, this touching story shows how Helene-Angel begins to recover from the incident through grieving and the support of her family and friends. Psychologically realistic and well-written, the tale illustrates the impact of such an event and opens the question, "Why would such a thing happen?" Placed over a matte of white paint, the illustrations are actually cells from an award winning video of the same name. The cartoon-like drawings show the emotional intensity of the piece. The somber tale is an inspiration to all young children who face such hatred and opens doors to readers who haven't faced such horrors.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2Helene-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.Marie Wright, University Library, Indianapolis, IN
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802784919
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.88 (w) x 9.82 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Ntozake Shange
Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange is a renowned playwright, poet (Nappy Edges and The Love Space Demands), and novelist (Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, Betsey Brown, and Liliane). She lives in Philadelphia.

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