cover image The Yellow Handkerchief (El pañuelo amarillo)

The Yellow Handkerchief (El pañuelo amarillo)

Donna Barba Higuera, illus. by Cynthia Alonso. Abrams, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-6014-3

In this deceptively simple story, a yellow square of fabric embodies a Latinx child’s internalized shame over the differences between their home life and that of a white-presenting friend. In the unnamed narrator’s multigenerational home, “my abuela wears an old yellow handkerchief that her grandmother gave to her” as she “scrubs the mud off our patio on her hands and knees” and undertakes other domestic tasks. When the narrator’s friend Becca asks what Abuela is cooking and why (after plucking a chicken) she has feathers in her hair, the protagonist feels embarrassment. Wishing the family had money for takeout and would buy chicken at the store “like everyone else,” the protagonist offers increasingly frustrated variations on, “I can’t stand that yellow handkerchief.” But when Abuela has to stay elsewhere for health reasons, and leaves the handkerchief behind, the ache of missing her changes everything. Higuera’s tight, insightful text, and Alonso’s playful digital illustrations—threaded with pink and purple—lighten an intensely personal-feeling exploration of shame and pride. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)