Recommended for ages 5-8
A classic written 40 years ago with the goal to promote equality between boys and girls arrives in the United States for the first time. Candy Pink is written in the style of a folk tale, explaining how elephant all became gray. You see, male elephants were always gray, but female elephants were candy pink. To get that color, they ate only peonies and anemones, wore bibs and shoes, and stayed together in a little walled garden, while the boy elephants playing in the mud, eating yummy grass, and sleeping beneath trees. When one little elephant named Daisy doesn’t turn pink, her father is harsh and cruel, her mother, sad. They pressure her to eat more pink food and threaten her by telling her no one will want to marry her. When they finally give up, the girl elephant embraces her freedom, sheds her bib and shoes, and enjoys life – something that doesn’t go unnoticed by the other female elephants. And, well… you can’t tell the difference between boy and girl elephants anymore, can you?
I was taken aback the first time I read Candy Pink, because it seems harsh on a young girl: the emphasis on appearance and girlish pursuits, Daisy’s parents’ terrible reaction to her inability to fit their mold for her. A second reading put more in perspective for me – the little elephant embraced her uniqueness and wasn’t ostracized for it – the other female elephants flocked to her, and made a huge change that exists to this day. It’s a powerful little story for school-age kids that lends itself to some pretty big ideas. Originally published in Italian in 1976 with the title Rosaconfetto, Adela Turin tackled gender identity and the pressure society puts on appearances by using a parable that everyone could understand and that young girls could relate to. Forty years later, Candy Pink is just as relevant.
Award-winning illustrator Nella Bosnia’s artwork is beautiful. She uses shades of gray and pink against muted background colors for the world of the story; primarily greens, blues, and yellows for the assorted flora and fauna. The bibs, shoes, and bows on the elephants tails are frilly and exaggerated, even pinker than the pale pink elephants; against Daisy’s natural gray, it’s a true contrast.
An interesting and still-timely look at gender, society, and the expectations parents put on their own children. A good addition to bookshelves. Booktalk and display with self-esteem boosters like Karen Beaumont’s I Like Myself!, Peter Reynolds’ Ish, and Todd Parr’s It’s Okay to Be Different. Want another elephant fairy tale? Emma Dodd’s Cinderelephant is a light-hearted, fun take on the classic fairy tale.