February 07, 2020

Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color

Written by Andrée Poulin
Illustrated by Lucile Danis Drouot
Pajama Press
978-1-77278-104-5
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
February 2020 


I'm tickled pink by any book that supports diversity and acceptance of differences as the norm so I'm especially thrilled about a picture book that supports this message in as subtle and eloquent a way, as well as playful, as Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color.

When Zac the zebra and Poncho the panda are playing and Filippo the flamingo asks if he can join them, he is told that he is too pink, a colour which gives Poncho a headache. But when Filippa asks his parents, they tell him pink is the colour of kindness and happiness. So Filippo tries again.

From Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andrée Poulin, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot

From Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andrée Poulin, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot
Zac and Poncho are now rude to Filippo, telling him they don't want him to play and that "Pink doesn't mix with black and white." His grandmother shows him with her paints how wrong that idea is. So Filippo adds some black and white paint to his body and asks politely again. But, of course, Zac and Poncho continue to make excuses, about pink being the colour for babies who cry and princesses who are fussy.

From Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andrée Poulin, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot

Though Filippo gets support from his family, it's input from his shy peer, Ludo the lemur, that makes things right for Filippo.  Ludo recounts to Filippo all the wonderful things that come in pink: shrimp, salmon, bubble gum, cherry blossoms, begonias, peonies, petunias, and roses. And Ludo, who is black and white, says he would be pleased to play with Filippo. That play includes adding a little pink paint to the sleeping zebra and panda, who are not pleased, but also to other animals who are "tickled pink to go pink."

From Tickled Pink: How Friendship Washes the World with Color by Andrée Poulin, illus. by Lucile Danis Drouot
The story in Tickled Pink is far from black and white. It goes beyond a story of excluding those who are different. It demonstrates how much we all want to be included.  Filippo could have thrown up his wings and said, "Fine, I don't want to play with you, Zak and Poncho" but he didn't. He questioned his parents and his grandmother and his sister, all to help him grasp what being pink meant. But bullying and intolerance are incomprehensible, especially when "reasons" are given to explain the intolerance. I'm glad Andrée Poulin gave Filippo a quiet and insightful friend in Ludo who proves that it's not the black-and-white animals that lack understanding, but just one zebra and one panda. (Okay, there may be others out there, there always are, but it's clear that it's not all black-and-white animals.) For intolerance to be eliminated, everyone needed to see beyond the colours.

Artist Lucile Danis Drouot keeps her palette, until the very end, black, white, gray and pinks to emphasize the separation that Zak and Poncho highlight but she adds a playfulness in her animals' activities–vine-climbing, soccer, volleyball, and badminton–that embeds the message in gentleness and whimsy. A final spread resplendent in pinks brightens the world in happiness and friendship.

Like any racism or discrimination, the zebra and the panda could have arbitrarily chosen an attribute other than colour, such as non-feathered vs. feathered, or four-legged vs. two-legged.  But, like so many who discriminate, they chose colour. Fortunately, there are so many who don't see the colour, only the substance, and infuse our world with goodness and acceptance.

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