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The Colors of Us

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  854 Ratings  ·  172 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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Courtney Weber
May 09, 2015 Courtney Weber rated it it was amazing
Personal Reaction: This is hands down my favorite children's book i've ever read. It talks about the colors of people's skin in such a positive way and shares how we are all beautiful because we are different. I will use this book in my classroom one day.

Read Aloud: This would be an amazing read aloud. It talks about diversity in the most positive way and helps kids realize that people are different but in good, sweet ways. Everyone's skin tone is compared to something like chocolate or cinnamon
Aysheh M
Jan 17, 2015 Aysheh M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
A little girl and her mother stroll the neighborhood noticing the many skin color shades of brown and likening the colors to food such as butterscotch, ginger and coffee.
Nov 02, 2012 Morgan rated it it was amazing
PB 25: This book is very good for helping children understand the different colors of skin people can have. It is certainly an important lesson that should be taught in every classroom.
Albert Lee
Mar 02, 2017 Albert Lee rated it liked it
"The Colors of Us" is a simple yet colorful book about Lena who walks through her community and describes the skin color of all the diverse groups of people with different flavors. The illustrations are very colorful and eye catching so they are interesting for children to look at. It adds to the story by showing how each individual character looks like. Although the book tries to expose children to a diverse group of people I feel as though they went about it the wrong way. Some of the characte ...more
Libby Erwood
Feb 26, 2015 Libby Erwood rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz follows a little girl on a journey as her mom shows her people of all different colors and backgrounds, comparing their skin to colors the little girl, Lena, can recognize and relate to. I really enjoyed this book because of the way it showed diversity and differences among individuals. Not only in a relatable and engaging way for children, but also in a way that is celebrating individuals differences rather than just pointing them out. The illustrations show all d ...more
Logan Grant
Nov 06, 2016 Logan Grant rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
The Colors of Us, written by Karen Katz, begins with a young girl, Lena, asking her mother for a plain brown color to paint a self portrait. Her mother explains to her that she will have to use more colors than just plain brown, that her skin is a mixture of colors- that all skin is different. Her mother walks her around the neighborhood giving examples of their neighbors and their variety of skin tones. Her mother points out how her friends are of a variety, and she uses similes to liken each s ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-craft, diversity
Me: This was a favorite of ours when the boys were little. When one of our sons innocently asked his African-American preschool teacher if her hands were dirty, we sort of freaked at home and picked this up. "The Colors of Us" gave him language to describe all the different skin tones he was becoming exposed to. In the end, all he wanted was a way to describe her skin tone... something this book offered in abundance.

As importantly, this book also reassured us, his parents, that he never meant a
Phyleesha Daigle
Nov 01, 2015 Phyleesha Daigle rated it it was ok
I gave this book only 2 stars for many reasons. I read and discussed this in class with my group and we found many different little issues with this book. It had a great intention, and is about a mom explaining to her daughter that there are many different types of brown. It's kind of cute that she compares each shade to a food, but other than that the book is very stereotyped and almost racist even though it's trying to do the opposite. I understand that you can't exactly explain race and cultu ...more
Ashley Wilcock
Feb 07, 2017 Ashley Wilcock rated it liked it
1) Summary:
This is the story of a little girl named Lena who is painting a self-portrait. Lena believes that there is only one color brown for her to paint herself with, but her mother argues that there are many shades to create artwork with. Lena’s mother takes her on a walk through their local community and they bump into many of their friends. Lena observes the skin shades of everyone they meet while comparing them to familiar foods and objects. She then realizes that there are many different
Nov 02, 2015 ShelbySeeger rated it it was ok
The Color of Us by Karen Katz is a childrens book portraying Social/critical issues in society.

This book is about a little girl whose mother is an artist. One day her mother is painting a portrait of herself and mixes colors together to make the perfect color brown for her skin. Lena, the little girl, wants to know what her shade of brown would look like to paint her skin color. Her mother tells her that there are many shades of brown and people with all different skin colors! As they take a wa
Keri Denin Milam
Oct 16, 2013 Keri Denin Milam rated it really liked it
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
Oct 29, 2015 Alyssa rated it liked it
"The Colors of Us," is a children's picture book written by Karen Katz. The story is about a seven year old girl named Lena who is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use the color brown for her skin and her mother tells her there are many different shades of brown. Lena and her mom go for a walk through the neighborhood and Lena finds out that there are various types of browns. Katz writes an engaging multicultural picture book with bold illustrations and introduces different eth ...more
Emily Holder
Oct 18, 2016 Emily Holder added it
Shelves: text-set
The book, "The Colors of Us" describe a variety of characters and their skin color. This book is important because none of the skin colors were seen in a bad light. The lighter colors and darker colors and every color in between were all seen as beautiful and compared with something as such. This text relates to my topic because it shows diversity in families, though not a traditional families. Some families are tight knight, only including immediate blood relatives. Other families include godsi ...more
Natalie Brockmeier
I really liked reading this book. I loved the big bold pictures in it and I like how the text was displayed on the page, as it was visually appealing. Additionally, when reading I saw tons of valid reasons to read this in a younger elementary classroom.
I would read this book, preferably towards the beginning of the year, and a unit of diversity and acceptance of others. Especially as diverse as classrooms are these days, this book would make it possible for every child in the class to at least
Abbery Milhouse-cunningham
Oct 22, 2013 Abbery Milhouse-cunningham rated it really liked it
Shelves: race-textset
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
Chanae Wills
Sep 25, 2012 Chanae Wills rated it really liked it
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
Johna Brown
Nov 17, 2013 Johna Brown rated it really liked it
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
Renea Freeman
Oct 16, 2013 Renea Freeman rated it it was amazing
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
Mara Mccarthy
Apr 16, 2012 Mara Mccarthy rated it liked it
Shelves: text-set
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
Molly Alexander
Feb 09, 2015 Molly Alexander rated it it was amazing
When Lena wants to paint a picture of herself, she realizes that the color brown has many different shades to it, and that she isn't just brown. The main character Lena is seven and is starting to take in interest in the color that she sees herself as, and the colors of all the many people that surround her on a daily basis. They are all brown, many different, beautiful shades of brown and tan. I love the way the pictures are all related to different things that a child probably has seen or know ...more
(NS) - Heather Hayman
Sep 26, 2009 (NS) - Heather Hayman rated it really liked it
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
Chi Nguyen
Jan 18, 2017 Chi Nguyen rated it really liked it
The Color Of Us revolves around a seven year old named Lena. She wants to paint a picture of herself and her mother tells her that if she mixes paint in the right combination she would be able to make the right brown to match her skin. Lena was confused because she thinks brown is brown. So Lena’s mother takes her on a walk around the neighborhood to see people with different shades of brown.

There is one main idea of The Color Of Us revolve around that has two meanings and that is color. One mea
Kelsey Strozier
Colors of Us by Karen Katz is was one of my favorite books from my childhood. The book is about a little girl who discovers that her beautiful brown skin comes in many different shades. The author uses flavors to describe the shades of brown like chocolate, honey, peanut butter, and cinnamon. This engages the child into the book because the flavors allow them to think outside of the box by reminiscing about a specific taste. I would put this book in the contemporary realistic fiction genre and I ...more
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
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
Oct 21, 2013 Arissa rated it really liked it
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
Sharon Worrell
Oct 31, 2015 Sharon Worrell rated it it was amazing
Wonderful and courageous is the author for writing about a critical issue on the diversity of ethnicities and beautiful skin tones which are still very pertinent today. Little Lena wants to paint her self portrait but when mixing paint, she doesn't understand the many shades of brown. Therefore, her mother takes her on a walk in the neighbourhood to recognize the beauty of each persons skin tone and compares them to different foods. I really like when Lena sees her neighbours and their appearanc ...more
Nov 17, 2016 Lea added it
The Colors of Us is a fun book that is narrated by a girl name Lena and her mother. Lena and her mom love to paint and a discussion arises about how to paint skin color. Lena feels that there is only one color brown to paint with, but her mom tells her that everyone’s skin is unique and different shades. The walk around their neighborhood and describe people’s skin types using creative adjectives.

Karen Katz uses fun illustrations and coloring to show how everyone is unique and different. She ma
Savannah Harpster
Oct 04, 2012 Savannah Harpster rated it really liked it
Shelves: digitalbookshelf
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
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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
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