cover image Whitewash


Ntozake Shange. Walker & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8490-2

An African American girl and her brother are the victims of a disturbing racial attack in this ripped-from-the-headlines picture book. Helene-Angel and her older brother, Mauricio, are taunted and assaulted by a gang of white thugs. The assailants beat up Mauricio and coat Helene-Angel's face with stinging white paint, claiming to teach her ""how to be white."" The pair hide indoors from reporters and stay home from school for days; not until Helene-Angel's classmates come to visit in a show of solidarity and support are she and Mauricio able to return to their routine. Readers will likely share playwright Shange's anger and sorrow at this event, based on similar attacks in large cities over the past few years. Her characters speak in tones of shock and pain that clearly convey the seriousness of the issues here. The illustrations are reproductions of animation cels from a videotape version of the story. The rounded shapes and somewhat oversimplified lines of the characters' bodies stand out against handsomely mottled backgrounds, providing dramatic contrast. This honest look at a racial incident may aid children in discussing their own fears as well as possible solutions. Ages 7-10. (Oct.) Fiction