Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Taste of Colored Water

A Taste of Colored Water

Matt Faulkner
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2008   ISBN: 978-1416916291

Abbey Finch recently went to the big city with her mama to go shopping, and while she was there she saw a water bubbler that had a sign hanging over it that said “Colored.” She tells the kids back at home about what she saw and they all think she is “crazy.” Why would anyone have colored water coming out of a water fountain?

The kids are inclined to think that this story is yet another of Abbey’s fibs, but they cannot help thinking how wonderful it would be to see a fountain that spouts forth colored water. Lulu and her cousin Jelly decide that they really have to see this marvel, and by some miracle they soon get the opportunity. Uncle Jack needs to get a part for a tractor he is working on, and the two children pester the man to take them with him until he gives in. Of course, Lulu and Jelly know better than to tell Uncle Jack why they really want to go to the big city so badly.

Now, Lulu and Jelly have never been to the big city before, and the sight of all those tall buildings, the streets, and the lack of fields and trees is rather overwhelming. Uncle Jack finally gets to his destination, a shop across the street from city hall, and he goes to get the tractor part that he is looking for, telling the children to “Stay put” while he is gone.

Of course they don’t. The colored water bubbler is right there and so they go and investigate, never expecting that what they will experience on that hill next to the city hall will put a crack in their world view that will change them forever.

Children are naturally open and accepting of everyone. Until someone teaches them to be fearful of people who are different from them, they more often than not do not really see or care about another child’s skin color, hair color, eye color, or eye shape. For them a kid is just a kid.

In this thought-provoking book Matt Faulkner gives young readers a story about two children who have no idea that a whole section of their society, African-Americans, are forced to live separately, and are denied rights that white people take for granted. In just a few minutes the children discover that in the adult world there are lines and boundaries that cause anger, pain, and frustration.

Seeing the world through Jelly and Lulu’s eyes will remind adults of that time when they, like these two children, were free of prejudice. The story will give those adults the means to have an open dialogue with the children in their lives about racism.