Illus. Alea Marley . Sterling, 2019.
Hardcover Picture Book, 32 pp.
Oh, my, but this is the sweetest book. Easily one of the loveliest and most effortless Family-Moving picture books I’ve seen. The gentle transitions in the story paired with an equally attractive style of illustration was/is a delightful experience—just pretty and rich.
We learn that Harpreet Singh loves expressing himself through an array of colors. The colors could reflect a mood, or bolster one. Colors take on a meaning and build a context that tells us a great deal about Harpreet’s emotional state of being. This is one of the places where the words and pictures work so well together.
On one page we learn: Harpreet “wore red when he needed an extra boost of courage.” And on the following page, when he learns they’ll be moving across country, he is wearing his red patka.
At his new school, we see a girl wearing a yellow hat and I was remember what yellow means to Harpreet. “He wore yellow when he felt sunny, spreading cheer everywhere he went.” The illustration to accompany that quote places him at the beach, with other people, and drawing a smiley face in the sand. The face looks remarkably like the smile on the girl’s hat–the similarity accentuated when he finds it in the snow (the polar opposite of the beach scene).
The meaning of colors becomes shared and the new friendship coaxes Harpreet back into trying his colors again. The meaning of colors also proves capable of change. Where white initially signaled his desire to disappear, white would become a reminder of the snow…where he found the hat that would find him a friend. I enjoyed how, when he returns the hat, he offers a simple, gentle correction when she compliments his hat. It’s a patka.
For Harpreet, we learn that he likes to have and wear different colors of patkas, but when his parents are trying to encourage him to wearing something other than his white patka, they are holding other articles of clothing. It’s through the patka that he chooses to express color. The book offers a note from Simran Jeet Sing, a Scholar and Professor of Sikhism briefly explaining Sikh religion and the role of the turbans (of which a patka is one). It’s beautiful, oh, and informative.
I highly recommend The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh. It’s a delightful book about change, and about expression to which any child can relate. No Family-Move required. Bonus points for it telling the story with a character and culture we do not have the pleasure of experiencing often (if ever) in picture books.
Allow the book to inspire curiosity…and some play with color and expression.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Supriya Kelkar learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. Her books include American as Paneer Pie, The Sandalwood Pyre, and Ahimsa.
Alea Marley is a children’s illustrator who is is currently based in North England. Her illustration clients include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sterling, American Girl, Little Bee, and Macmillan.