Review: Red and Green and Blue and White

Red and Green and Blue and White

by Lee Wind, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

Levine Querido

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Ruth Horowitz

In 1993, in Billings, Montana, a rock shattered a window displaying a menorah decoration. The community, overwhelmingly non-Jewish, responded by displaying 10,000 menorah decorations in windows around town. RED AND GREEN AND BLUE AND WHITE turns these events into a picture book that is gracefully written, gorgeously illustrated, appropriate for young readers, and inspiring to all.
Lee Wind centers his story on two real children, neighbors and best friends Isaac and Teresa. The two have a lot in common, including loving each other’s holiday lights– Isaac’s the only blue-and-white display in a sea of red and green. One night, “shadows” approach Isaac’s house, and a stone shatters his window. After the police come and the glass is replaced, Isaac’s frightened family considers keeping their display down. But erring on the side of safety would be “like hiding they were Jewish,” and doesn’t “feel right” to Isaac. The display goes back up. Teresa, watching from across the street, lets out “a breath she hadn’t known she was holding,” and posts her own menorah decoration to support her friend. Teresa’s idea spreads until, three weeks after the incident “Isaac and his family stood tall and Teresa and her family stood up by their side,” the whole town shines red and green and blue and white, in a celebration of the “true spirit of the holidays – the true meaning of community.”
Wind’s pitch-perfect text is elegantly spare, accessible on many levels, and lyrical enough to invite multiple read-alouds. Caldecott Medalist Paul O. Zelinsky’s gorgeous art captures the magic of holiday lights in the night, and expresses the story’s shifting moods – from playful, to briefly worrying, to heartwarming. RED AND GREEN AND BLUE AND WHITE is an important, inspiring story about the power of love to overcome hate, a timely and inclusive take on the Chanukah theme of light overcoming darkness, and a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
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Reviewer Ruth Horowitz's books for children include SAVING ELI'S LIBRARY, ARE WE STILL FRIENDS, CRAB MOON and BREAK-OUT AT THE BUG LAB. She lives in Rhode Island.