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The Colors of Us
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The Colors of Us

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  410 ratings  ·  106 reviews
A positive and affirming look at skin color, from an artist’s perspective.

Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades.

Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a ne
Paperback, 32 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Square Fish (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 857)
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Aysheh M
Many people no matter the race see one color as its only shade or variation. Within those opaque colors underlies lighter tones or as the author likes to refer as "flavors". I liked the fact that the author referred in flavors of food but not in actual colors. This book forms a unity between many races and ethnicities.
I actually just read this book with my very diverse group of Pre-K'ers last week and they loved it! They were able to easily relate and I could tell even at such a young age it made them recognize and truly take pride in their color diversity, which was a beautiful thing to see. I like how every skin color was celebrated and described. The main character was a girl and she mentioned and celebrated the unique appearance of her female friends which is why I included it in my text set. There was a ...more
Cara Byrne
This sweet, brief picture book follows seven-year-old Lena as she walks around her neighborhood with her mom and learns to paint and appreciate the distinct hues of her girlfriends and the adults who live around her. The book begins, "My name is Lena, and I am seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up." and ends "I am happy as I get out my paints: yellow, red, black, and white. I think about all the wonderful colors I will make, and I say their names out loud. Cinnamon, cho ...more
(NS) - Heather Hayman
The Colors of Us, By Karen Katz, is about a young girl named Lena and her mother who observe variations in the colors of their friends' skin. As Lena looks at the different shades of brown, she starts to compare everyone in terms of delicious food. Suddently their skin turns into chocolate, ginger, honey, peanut butter, pizza crust and more as they stroll though their neighborhood. Colorful illustrations add to the beautiful comparisons in this story aimed towards primary children.

I think that
Mara Mccarthy
In The Colors of Us, a little girl named Lena wants to paint a self-portrait. When her mom, who is an artist, tries to help her by showing her how to mix colors to create the perfect shade for her skin, Lena argues that brown is brown and she does not need to mix colors. Her mother decides to take Lena on a walk through their town, and makes sure to point out all of the different skin tones they see. They think of a delicious food that resembles the color of each skin tone, which presents each s ...more
Abbery Milhouse-cunningham
This children's book depicts the story of a seven year old girl (Lena), who explores the diversity of skin tone through art. Throughout the narrative, Lena encountered, described, and painted various hues of skin. Language like "creamy peanut-butter, color of honey, and reddish brown" are used to describe the skin tones of Lena's family, friends, and community members. Lena concluded that "The Color of Us" is beautiful, acceptable, unique, and exciting. As a teacher, I would use this book to inf ...more
Keri Denin Milam
This narrative tells about a seven year old girl, Lena, who wants to paint a picture of herself and use brown paint for her skin. Lena's mom, who is an artist, is teaching Lena to mix colors. Lena argues, as a child would, that "Mom, Brown is Brown!" Lena's mom takes her daughter on a walk through their neighborhood, and shows Lena that brown comes in many different shades. Karen Katz uses wonderful descriptive language to describe different skin tones with colors of food ("I am the color of Cin ...more
Renea Freeman
I truly enjoyed reading this book by Karen Katz. The book opens up with a little girl named Lena and her mommy talking about which color paints will make the right brown for her skin. Lena thinks that brown is brown, however since her mom is an artist she knows that there are many shades and hues of brown. Lena and her mom set off to take a more closely look at the many shades of brown. During their journey Lena discovers that several of her family members, neighbors and friends are all differen ...more
Johna Brown
This story is a book about the variations of colors. It started with a little girl by the name of Lena, painting a picture of her. Lena mom is an artist and showed her how to mix colors. Lena and her mom took a walk through the neighborhood. Lena was able to see the different skin tones on people. I think this would be a good book to read on the first day of school with kindergarten students. This would help them to see that their skin complexion is unique. As a teacher, I would read this story ...more
A young girl’s mother is a painter and knows colors very well. When she asks her mother how to make her color (her skin color), her mother explains that the right white, yellow, red, and black will make the right brown for her color. The young girl is confused because how can there be more than one color brown—“brown is brown”. Throughout the book, the girl and her mother go around the town seeing good friends and locals along the way. The young girl describes the colors of their skin with sweet ...more
Chanae Wills
The Colors of Us is a narrative about a seven year old girl named Lena. She wants to paint a picture of herself and her mother, who is an artist, tells her what colors to mix together in order for her to get the right brown. Lena thinks that “brown is brown”, so she and her mother talk a walk to see all the different colors that everyone is around the neighborhood (ex. “Isabella is chocolate brown, like the cupcakes we had for her birthday.”). As a literacy teacher, I would use this book to teac ...more
Demi Sienna
This story is very nice for children to read. It about a little girl, the author's adopted daughter actually. She is trying to make a portrait of herself but in the process, she learns about different skin tones. She also learns that we may be different, per skin color, but we're all the same which makes the world beautiful. I like the positive message. The story is age-appropriate and multicultural. It is also very family-oriented. The illustrations are colorful for children to enjoy.
A book about accepting the skin color that you are given. The daughter was going to draw a picture of herself just using plain brown, but her artist mother takes her on a walk through the neighborhood to show her all of the different colors of skin. They compare skin to foods—“Rosita’s skin looks like butterscotch,” Mr. Kashmir is “the color of ginger and chili powder,” and “Aunt Kathy is tawny tan like coconuts and coffee toffee.” The girl paints everyone in the neighborhood and declares “The c ...more
Lena is a seven year old girl and is going to paint a self-portrait which she wants to use brown to paint her skin. Her mom is an artist and explains to her that the right brown for her can be made by a combination of other colors. Lena is confused and says " Mom, brown is brown." Her mom takes her on a walk around their neighborhood and describes the different types of brown, which she relates them to flavors. For an example her mom says "Sonia is light yellow brown, like peanut butter." She re ...more
Shamilah Gillani
This is a great book to teach equality, acceptance, and love amongst classmates. This book is about a 7 year old girl named Lena who wants to paint a picture, but when she goes to paint it, she realizes there are many colors of brown. Her mother, who is a painter, explains to her that there were many shades. She goes around and looks at her friend's skin colors and compares them to brown shades from foods. She compared them to peanut butter, chocolate cupcakes, etc.
in my classroom, I would use
Savannah Harpster
This is a very cute story of a little girl named Lena who learns that there are many different shades of brown. When her mother, the artist shows her how to mix the colors: red, yellow, black, and white paints to make a picture of herself. But it has to be the right color combination of those paints. So, her mother takes her out and shows her how everyone she knows is a different shade of brown, all a beautiful color. This is a great story to make any child love the color of their skin, knowing ...more
Ms Threlkeld
I love the idea of really looking at people's skin color and realizing there are a vast number of shades and they are all beautiful. This book could lead to some interesting discussions with elementary schoolers and I could see connecting it to an art project on portraits.
we are all different. we look different, we sound different, we come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. we have different families and different neighborhoods. what do you think of when you look at your mom? does she look tan or milky or smooth like chocolate? what about your best friends? your bus driver? your mail person? the people at the grocery store? this book helps children appreciate the many shades and hues we see when we look at the people all around us.

a lesson for a small group
Kaylie Henley
This is a great multicultural book for kids to really introduce them to the different people of this vast world. I really liked this book because it showed everyone being friends and accepting them for who they are and celebrating their differences.
Maria Bulfamante
I actually really liked this book. It is a great way for children to understand that everyone is different, but special in there own ways. I liked how each skin color was described and appreciated. This is a great book to read to young children.
I've been reading this one with kids for several years. And they dig it. As do I. The author (who is drawing from the live experiences of her own family) does a nice job of celebrating differences in skin color (and making a great curricular connection to color-mixing skin tones) and the children relate easily to the characters. My problem with the book is that it falls into some stereotypes that I work really hard to challenge with my students. Katz shows the darkest skinned woman as a domestic ...more
A sweet story with a great message, but the use of food metaphors is a bit problematic. I've read several articles lately where POC talk about feeling exoticized and objectified by those kinds of descriptions.
Amy B.
Jul 24, 2008 Amy B. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents/ elementary teachers
Recommended to Amy by: NEA website
Katz, K. (1999). The color of us. New York, NY. Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

In this story, Lena and her mother explore the colors of people of their neighborhood. She uses comparisons that are playful, rich and diverse. The diversity represented in this heartwarming story depicts the colorful world in which we reside. Lena celebrates the colors of her friends and sees them as unique individuals. I would suggest this book for use with children at the elementary level. Katz story symbolizes the m
Katz, K. (2002). The Colors of Us. New York, NY: Square Fish.

Topic: Skin color
Subtopic: Shades of black
Genre: Narrative

This book is about a 7 year old girl named Lena that wants to paint a self portrait of herself. Lena wants to use brown but her mother, who is an artist, is trying to show her how to mix colors to achieve the right shade of brown for her skin. Lena has trouble understanding that there are different shades of brown people can be, so her mother takes her on a walk through the neig
Good tool to teach about the many different colors of people's skin...used it to teach about prejudice in a first grade classroom.
James Mead
I liked 'The Colors of Us' by Karen Katz. "But mom, brown is brown" is my favorite line. I am sure there are many people who feel this way and with young children this is a perfect way to introduce diversity. I would use this book to get children thinking about how everyone is different. I would like to make the point that everyone is unique. The way the book does this is by introducing characters in the book that are known to the main character, Lena. Each of these characters is an unique color ...more
This clever book uses the practiced eye of an artist to celebrate differences in skin color. A child and her artist mother are discussing how to mix the color brown. Mom's reference to 'finding the right brown' leads to a walk through the neighborhood during which they discuss the 'right brown' for different skin tones. Skin tones are also compared to food to give kids another reference point. For example, "Sonia is a light yellow brown...Just like creamy peanut butter."

This is an excellent book
Adriana Fuchs

This is a wonderful story for young children. Karen Katz makes it fun and simple for children to understand differences and diversity, as well as tolerance and acceptance. As children understand the story, it helps them to strengthen their self image, and confidence. This book is a great resource for teachers, plenty of different developmentally appropriate activities can result from this reading, and can be applied to any of the domains: Social Emotional, cognitive and language, Physical and cr
Neil Nicholson
This is a great book to teach kids about appreciating the skin that they are in. In the first line of the book, a little girls says "My name is Lena, and I am seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up." Throughout the book, Lena and her mother talk about the skin colors of friends. They often compare them to something in nature of food. This would be a good book for pre-k through 2nd grade. A good activity would be for the teacher to bring in some of the food items presente ...more
Apr 24, 2013 Megan added it
Shelves: loving-yourself
This is about a young girl named Lena who wants to paint a picture of her and her mom. She begins to paint and notices the brown isn’t the right color and she doesn’t understand, so her mom shows her all the different color of brown and how beautiful each one is. This is a great book to use for student to understand there are many different colors of people and they are all beautiful. I think it would be a fun activity to have them connect their skin color to something wonderful like they do in ...more
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Karen Katz has written and illustrated many books for children, including The Colors of Us, Can You Say Peace, My First Ramadan, Counting Kisses and Where is Baby's Belly Button. Long inspired by folk art from around the world, she was inspired to write her first book, Over the Moon, when she and her husband adopted their daughter from Guatemala, and she wanted to tell the story of welcoming Lena ...more
More about Karen Katz...
Where Is Baby's Belly Button? Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book Daddy Hugs A Potty for Me! Where Is Baby's Mommy?: A Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Book

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