Review: My Shadow Is Pink
What are little boys made of? Is it really frogs and snails; everything that is not sugar and spice and all things nice that are otherwise attributed to the makeup of girls? Should blue be the only shade that maketh the man? Debut author illustrator, Scott Stuart blows these outdated tropes well and truly out of the water with this deliriously amusing and tender picture book, My Shadow is Pink.
Our intrepid main character’s little face is a picture of consternation after he concedes that his shadow is not the strong blue that trails the other males in his family. His is a delicate shade of rose and mirrors that which he loves most: sparkles, dancing, twirling and dressing up. Despite his father’s reassurances that his shadow will adopt a more ‘manly’ appearance one of these days, and the little boy’s own yearning to fit in with the other acceptable shadow groups, he is unable to dismiss his conflicting feelings. Then one day an invitation to let his shadow dress up in its favourite thing changes everything.
My Shadow Is Pink is a lyrical ode to removing stigmas and crushing barriers about gender expectations. It is brazen and brave, bold and bright and above all challenges pre-conceived perceptions in beautiful shades of pink … and blue. Stuart colours his pages of rhyming text with eye-riveting swaths of vivid yellows, blues and pinks that favour his cartoon-esque style.
Inspired by Stuart’s own son whose singular adoration for Queen Elsa sparked a need to support his son’s choice of clothing and playthings, this story assures youngsters that we all have hidden shadows; those unique wants, passions, and desires that ultimately colour our individuality and enrich our personalities. These shadows don’t and won’t always conform to some people’s assumptions of what is ‘normal’ and what isn’t. But expectations of perfection and normality are just some people’s little opinions. In the big picture, they count for nothing because we are who we are. No one should have to apologise for that nor change because of it.
The most touching thing about this story aside from its powerful message about the importance of building self-esteem in the very young and allowing full expression of self, is the deliciously strong portrayal of the little boy’s father. He is your stereotypical male figure, moustachioed with uncompromising chest hairs; a character that reminded me a little of heavily browed Tim Lockwood, Flint’s dad from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Yet Dad’s bulging biceps and concern about his son are not his biggest attributes. It’s his heart. It is his profound fatherly love that eventually sheds (his shadow’s) flannel shirt for a pink sparkling shimmering dress.
My Shadow Is Pink, along with Stuart’s unyielding promotion of self-acceptance and empowerment, is not just a fun book to share with children of any gender and age (this would be dynamic to share with older readers and damaged teens), it is also an important conduit for empathy, encouraging readers to walk a mile not just in another’s shoes but with their beautiful incomparable shadows. And if that involves an Elsa dress, then walk in that too.
Bursting with mirth and tenderness, this book deserves a place on the top shelf. Read it often.
Shadow Is Pink
Author Illustrator: Scott Stuart
Publisher: Larrikin House, $24.99
Publication Date: August 2020
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book