My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

Values: Acceptance, Pride, Love, Kindness, Positivity and Confidence.

This stunning book follows nicely on from my last review (You Are Perfectly Designed) with the same theme of acceptance. It is a powerful take on breaking down gender stereotypes for young children.

In this story, the little boy has a shadow. His shadow is not like other boys' shadows as it likes to twirl, dance and wear pink. It doesn't look anything like his dad's shadow which is blue and strong; his dad says it is a phase that his shadow will grow out of. On the first day of school though, his dad is worried when he says goodbye to the little boy as he fears what the other children might say, and indeed they do laugh at the shadow. The little boy feels upset and confused... until something amazing happens! His dad wears and dress and his shadow does too! Dad shows his son the photo album of their family and he explains that some people hide their shadows or inner self because they are anxious or afraid of showing who they really are. In the end, both the father and son embrace their shadows and show everyone you should be proud of who you are.

This is such a powerful book with a very strong message. I like that Scott Stuart has made the message both implicit (pictures) and explicit (the advice the father gives his son). This book is all about being proud of who you are, showing love and kindness for those around you, being positive about your identity and having the confidence to show what makes you special. There can be a lot of work in PSHCE stemming from this book. Younger children talk readily about what makes them special and sometimes we don't focus on this enough with the other children (or they can become self-conscious and won't necessarily engage). This book promotes difference as a positive concept and enables us to talk freely about our inner selves who we may keep hidden.

I also very much like the way the father tells his son that if other people don't like him because of his shadow, it is their problem. He reinforces that many people will like him regardless of whatever his shadow looks like or how it acts, and those are the people to focus on. This can be a hard lesson to teach children. Some children think they need to 'be' a certain way for others to like them - maybe they need to be funny, maybe they need to like gaming or football, maybe they need to not hand in homework or not come top of the class in a test. After nine years of teaching, I would suggest this mainly happens with the older children in primary school, but it begins to creep in at the start of Key Stage 2 and I think we need to be mindful of the long-term effects of this comparison behaviour.

I have really enjoyed studying this book with 7 and 8 year olds. At first they found it funny and a little silly, but this didn't stop them articulating the message of the story. They also were able to recognise why the father felt a range of emotions in the story, but they thought he was a 'better' dad at the end of the book than the beginning. There are plenty of Values represented and definitely one for the Values bookshelf.

You can find the book in Waterstones, and you can search the #MyShadowIsPink to see international support for the book on Twitter.

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