Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

Home » Black Child » Bluish by Virginia Hamiliton

Bluish by Virginia Hamiliton

cover for Bluish by Virginia HamiltonMost of the time I pick books for my children based on their experiences so they know they are not the only ones. Many times, I pick books to introduce adventures we plan to do or places we plan to go. Often I pick books that reinforce our family’s values or our ways of being. But sometimes I come across a book with a new character—a character with a life story we have not encountered yet, but I know we will.

Dreenie, a fifth grader, just starting a new school is looking for a friend she can “talk things over with and do special things with.” Instead, she cares for her precocious little sister and a somewhat mixed-up and needy best friend. Then, she meets Natalie whom everyone calls “Bluish” for the color of her skin. Bluish arrives in her classroom in a wheelchair with a puppy on her lap and a knitted hat on her head. She comes and goes from school according to her own schedule and is hard for Dreenie to figure out, so Dreenie begins to write a journal all about Bluish. Through a class project, the two girls slowly become comfortable with each other and eventually become friends. Prompted by her visit to the doctor, the classroom teacher and the students have a heart-to-heart discussion about Natalie and we learn she has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The rest of the class slowly adjusts to having Natalie in class and begins to accept her ups and downs depending on how she is feeling that day. Natalie, also, finds her own way to join the class giving out hand-made knitted hats and teaching her classmates how to play dreidel.
The image on the cover of the book shows three girls in knit hats with varying skin tones and facial features. Natalie is identified as Jewish and Black and her mom bristles at the idea of kids calling her “Blewish”, not realizing her nickname “Bluish” has more to do with blue tint of her skin tone because of her illness. Dreenie and the third girl on the cover are never labeled with a particular heritage although Dreenie calls herself a “sorta sweet chocolate color” and calls Tuli “more honey color.” At one point, Dreenie’s little sister taunts her by saying, “I know who your mama ain’t, Drain. Because you sure ain’t one of us Anneva and Gerald Browns!” causing me to wonder if Dreenie was adopted but there is no more mention of this leaving me confused. But I am not the only one confused– honey-colored Tuli is right there with me. Tulifoolie pretends to speak Spanish singing out phrases, “chica-chica, do the mambo” and calling folks “muchcha” but is told by a Spanish speaking girl that she “gives Spanish kids a bad name.” Tuli lives with her grandmom in a not-so-good part of town. Tuli’s aunt is mentioned but never a mention of a mother or father–and no mention to confirm if she is indeed Latina. Your young reader might not have the need to know the exact heritage of Dreenie and Tuli and therefore might escape the confusion I experienced. All three girls play a major role in the story and present very different individuals who come together as friends. And that is a theme with which many readers can relate.

Recommendation: This book is appropriate for readers ages 9-14.
Reviewer:  Amanda Setty
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: