Black. It’s a colour Zane can’t stand but it’s everywhere. Can a piece of chalk hold the key to helping him?
Title: The Chalk Rainbow
Author: Deborah Kelly
Illustrator: Gwynneth Jones
ISBN: 9781925335453 Language: English
Themes: siblings, empathy
What’s it about?
This is the story of a boy named Zane. Zane isn’t like other children – he’s a little bit different. He likes to line things up in neat rows and hates the colour black – because he hates black it makes lots of things more difficult for the family – like he won’t eat anything black, or wear anything black, or even walk on anything black. Then one day his older sister has an idea to help Zane.
The sentences are simple and concise. There is font variation for words of emphasis (such as ‘hates’ and ‘screams’. The portrayal of a child with Autism is easy to understand without trying to explain to the reader too much. The illustrations are detailed and beautifully rendered with a chalk-like appearance.
The first time I read this book was with my kids and had been chosen by my daughter because it had a rainbow on the cover. I wasn’t actually sure what the book would be about so we jumped in to see.
It’s really good seeing books about siblings caring for their siblings. This book would work well as a companion book for Hide and Seek if families/siblings were the focus of a class lesson. The older sister shows a lot of empathy for her younger brother who struggles with some day-to-day tasks. She comes up with the idea of using chalk to paint rainbows over the black until their are chalk rainbows everywhere.
I initially wan’t quite sure what to make of this story but my kids certainly did like it and it was read several times alone in the first week. I’m not sure that they understood Zane but they did get that the sister was helping her brother and that together they made art.
It was probably a couple of weeks after we originally read the story that we were at the local library and my kids sat down at some tables near the picture books. When I asked what they were drawing they replied “rainbows, like in the book”. So for me that makes the book a winner because something in it caught their imagination.
Overall, this would be a good book to use at home to explain to siblings about Autism (particularly if a member of the family has the condition) and also in junior primary classrooms to indirectly create empathy and understanding about a classmate.