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Uplifting Picture Books That Don't Preach
A Bad Case of Stripes
A Bad Case of Stripes
by David Shannon
Blue Sky Press/Scholastic,(1998)
Camilla Cream loved lima beans. But she never ate them. All of her friends hated lima beans, and she wanted to fit in. Camilla was always worried about what other people thought of her.
--A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon, p. 1.
Shannon (No, David; Good Boy, Fergus!)uses a fantastical story to reach readers and let them know that they can be themselves, and like what they like, not just be part of the crowd. Camilla likes lima beans, but it isn't cool to like them, so she rejects them. Then she looks in the mirror and finds that she's literally covered from head to toe in rainbow stripes.
No one can figure out what is wrong with her. As Camilla is around other people, the stripes change to reflect whatever other people want her to be or think she is—she flashes from red, white and blue with stars during the pledge of allegiance, to polka dots and checkerboards, to later all the diseases and cures that the doctors suggest.
Her parents desperately call in more specialists who only add to Camilla's plight, until finally an old woman offers her some lima beans, and gets Camilla to admit she loves them. Suddenly, Camilla is back to being a girl—a girl who is not afraid to admit she likes lima beans.
This is a funny, delightful, well-crafted story that gently lets readers know it's important to be who they are. The text is playful, with at times a dry humor (Camilla's last name is "Cream"—think bland, blending in with others). At times there are some telling sentences that detract from the story, and details that don't need to be shown in both the text and the art. In a few places the text may feel slightly too long, but overall this story is well-written, poignant, funny, and deep.
The stunning, surreal paintings are almost 3-D like; the figures seem to rise up off the page. The colors are brilliant, and there is texture, depth, and great detail, even down to the little bow on Camilla's undershirt, and the tiny squares on her pillow and sheets. The illustrations are dynamic, vibrant, and fantastical, at times grotesquely beautiful (when she sprouts bacteria tails, feathers, roots, crystals, and more.) There is a magical, surreal quality about the story and illustrations, similar to Chris Van Allsburg, or Dali and Escher combined. Some readers may find the illustrations disturbing or unsettling, especially those who do not enjoy fantasy.
This book encourages readers in an entertaining, fun way to stand up to peer pressure and be true to themselves. Highly recommended.
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