Vikki Young appreciates similarities, differences and color
Most concept books that introduce color to very young readers stick to the artistic palette, but the New Jersey author Vikki Young strove to push the format in a direction that encourages readers of all backgrounds to feel at home within the pages. †A girl of color is specifically designed to address and value not only the differences between people, but also their equality,” explains Young. “I wanted the book to have a strong theme of diversity and inclusiveness in a way…that young children could understand and identify with, because I think it’s so relevant and necessary that they be recognized in our world today.”
A girl of colorThat Kirkus Reviews considers “a bright and joyful celebration of the kaleidoscope of colors,” introduces young readers to Morgan, who is black, but, as she explains:
Black is the color of the dark night. And my skin is golden brown… like the sunlit leaves of autumn. My best friend is white. But white is the color of snow. And her skin looks pretty peachy to me.
From that first discussion, Morgan describes more metaphorical colors for moods, dressing in colors that match her descriptions. She also doesn’t stop at the hues of a rainbow, but uses plaids, dots and stripes before returning to the idea that people also have a rainbow of hues on their skin. The combination of brightly drawn illustrations, the use of colors to represent emotions, and the application of Morgan’s love of colors to the beauty of the wide range of skin tones that surround the narrator works very effectively to introduce all those ideas at once, braiding in the brightness of the world and the diversity of its people.
The character Morgan was inspired by Young’s own daughter, who, according to the author, is also “colorful and creative.” As Morgan appears in the book, she is intentionally portrayed as strong, happy and confident. Her love of colors helps her express her feelings – something that strengthens her family in the way they describe her.
The family also plays a very important role in the book; Morgan has a mother and father, two loving grandparents and a brother, all of whom help her identify the colors around her with emotional connection and connection. For example, her grandmother tells Morgan that the young girl brightens up the day “like the yellow morning sun,” and one of the striking illustrations shows Morgan experimenting with her mother’s red lipstick, while her mother, who has a lively, shocked expression, the background. “It was an important addition for me to bring her family to life in the book,” explains Young.
As a child, Young was not as carefree as Morgan’s book version. Instead, the author grew up “too fast” on the south side of Chicago. Young loved to read and already dreamed of writing, spending time on the shores of Lake Michigan, often writing on the beach. She became a wife and mother right out of high school, ending her childhood; her marriage didn’t last, but she became a successful co-parent. She later remarried, became stepmother to her husband’s two sons, and raised another son and daughter. Young is proud of her children and considers them her greatest achievements, and one of her grandchildren inspired her first book, I’m Too Allergic: Joshua’s Story†
Given the importance of family in Young’s life, it’s no surprise that it is so central to Morgan’s worldview. But while the presence of the family was important, for their images, Young illustrator allowed Seitu to make decisions. “I then gave him descriptions… [gave] gives him artistic freedom to do what he does best: illustrate,” Young says of her process. “I described to him the images I wanted to see for each page, and for the most part it seemed like he was the same [ones] I saw in my mind with just a few minor tweaks here and there.”
Seitu’s view of Morgan’s family and friends is consistent with the core theme of Young’s book: the characters appear in a variety of colors, from their clothing to their skin tone. Morgan’s mother has a lighter complexion, but her hair color is the same as Morgan’s. Morgan and her father have the same skin color, but his hair is much darker. Her brother’s curly hair resembles their grandfather’s white hair in texture. Despite their visions fitting together so well, Young and Seitu never met in person during the process of making the book. “We often communicated by phone, text, and email,” says Young. “He was a dream to work with and took a lot of opportunities to show his enormous talent and imagination. I really appreciate him for bringing my story to life so colorfully, and like music for words, he hit every note perfectly.”
if A girl of color ends, Morgan is shown with fellow children from around the world holding hands around a globe. The last page reads “The End / Of Maybe The Beginning”. That type of hook could very easily tempt readers into expecting another book with the unstoppable color-loving girl. However, it was not Young’s intention to lead to a sequel. Instead, “more than suggesting that there will be more Morgan adventures (although I certainly don’t discount that possibility), I wanted the end of the story to express my vision of optimism that children are our hope for the future.” of our world,” explains Young.
That’s why that last image is so poignant: Morgan, her peach-colored boyfriend, her brother, and other colored kids around the world are Young’s idea of what the world might look like. Those children, in traditional dress representing their nations, hold hands with smiles, giving a sense that in the future Young envisions, the world is in good hands.
Alana Joli Abbott writes about pop culture, fantasy and science fiction, and children’s books†