The Girl with the Brown Crayon: ,

Vivian Gussin Paley, Author Harvard University Press $20.5 (112p) ISBN 978-0-674-35439-5
Leo Lionni (see review above), is the focus of Paley's final year in her long career as a kindergarten teacher. Paley, the charismatic teacher and author of The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter and You Can't Say You Can't Play is taken on a metaphorical journey of discovery and self-discovery by kindergartners with inquiring minds. Led by Reeny, a five-year-old black girl who is ""a natural born innovator,"" the children and their teacher embark on a year-long study of Lionni, one of the class's favorite authors. Through characters in Lionni's books (Mr. McMouse, Frederick, among others) the children play out little dramas of gender, inclusion and sharing as the group paint posters and discuss the behaviors of their favorites. Reeny, for example, immediately identifies with Frederick: ""That brown mouse seem to be just like me!... Because I'm always usually thinking 'bout colors and words the same like him."" Paley's kindergarten is an oasis, blessed with a unique curriculum and a teacher willing to be taught by her students. Paley tries to fit lessons about adult biases into this paradigm as well, but they tend to be strained: e.g. one adult interprets Mr. McMouse's encounter with an unfamiliar reflection in his mirror as ""what happens to colored folks who hang out with too many white people. They lose their image."" But the classroom is one that any parent or teacher would wish for their own. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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