Red and Green and Blue and White

Lee Wind, Paul O. Zelin­sky (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – January 10, 2022

As inci­dent after inci­dent of anti­semitism shakes our nation, an old sto­ry gains new life in a col­or­ful pic­ture book that aims words and art at younger read­ers. Almost thir­ty years ago in Billings, Mon­tana, a nasty act of anti­semitism against a Jew­ish fam­i­ly dis­play­ing their meno­rah turned the town into a sup­port­ive col­lec­tive defend­ing free­dom of reli­gion. Soon after, a mov­ing pic­ture book arrived that told this unset­tling sto­ry with qui­et dig­ni­ty sup­port­ed by real­is­tic illus­tra­tions by Bill Farnsworth: The Christ­mas Meno­rahs: How a Town Fought Hate, by Jan­ice Cohn.

Now a brand new vol­ume presents the real­i­ty of what occurred, through min­i­mal text and swirling art by an award-win­ning artist. In the new ver­sion, as young Tere­sa pre­pares Christ­mas fes­tiv­i­ties, she shares her hol­i­day spir­it with her friend Isaac in the midst of his Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tions. Sud­den­ly a rock smash­es the win­dow where Isaac’s meno­rah glows. The fright­en­ing attack insti­gates Tere­sa to act, and soon the whole town joins in. They reject the van­dal­ism by putting pic­tures of meno­rahs in their win­dows too. The town’s cit­i­zens, as the author notes, turn into upstanders, not bystanders.” The dam­age is repaired. The fear may not be entire­ly gone, but it is dis­pelled by sup­port­ive neigh­bors and friends. Young chil­dren grasp that when bad things hap­pen, these acts are not okay; they must not be shrugged off, and if they are faced by the whole com­mu­ni­ty, every­one grows stronger. Love can win; dif­fer­ences will be respect­ed. In Billings, when the com­mu­ni­ty stood up, the stone throw­ers backed down.

Dynam­ic, col­or­ful, full pages of mov­ing art deliv­er this mes­sage while the words focus on the chil­dren who set the exam­ple for the grownups. The mes­sage bursts with hope as each paint­ing bursts from its page.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

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