Cover image for The colors of us
The colors of us
1st Owlet pbk. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt and Co., 2002.
Physical Description:
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 26 cm.
Reading Level:
570 L Lexile
Seven-year-old Lena and her mother observe the variations in the color of their friends' skin, viewed in terms of foods and things found in nature.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY KAT 1 1
Book EASY KAT 1 1
Book EASY KAT 1 1
Book EASY KAT 0 1

On Order



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 new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.

Karen Katz created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala six years ago.

Author Notes

Karen Katz is an American author and illustrator of children's books. After graduating from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, she attended the Yale Graduate School of Art and Architecture where she became interested in folk art, Indian miniatures, Shaker art, and Mexican art. Her first book, Over the Moon, was inspired by the experience of adopting her daughter from Central America. She has written and illustrated more than 50 picture books and novelty books including Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, Counting Kisses, and Daddy Hugs.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2 Lena's mother is an artist, so she knows whereof she speaks when she insists that there are many different shades of brown. The two take a walk through their neighborhood by way of illustration, and the friends and relatives they meet along the way aptly reinforce Mom's contention. Their skin colors are compared to honey, peanut butter, pizza crust, ginger, peaches, chocolate, and more, conjuring up delicious and beautiful comparisons for every tint. Katz's pencil-and-gouache pictures joyously convey the range of human pigmentation. Positive and useful. Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

After seven-year-old Lena claims that brown is brown, her mother, an artist, walks her around their diverse neighborhood to show her that brown skin, like Lena's own, comes in many shades. That afternoon, Lena paints her neighbors' portraits using delicious brown hues like cinnamon, chocolate, and honey. Mixed-media illustrations of these jazzy urbanites joyfully bring the message home. From HORN BOOK Spring 2000, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is ``seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up''; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to ``mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.'' They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, ``like leaves in fall''; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends'``The colors of us!'' Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child's open-hearted sensibility and a mother's love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Booklist Review

Ages 3^-6. Lena discovers that she and her friends and neighbors are all beautiful shades of brown. "I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up," says Lena. Then she sees everyone else in terms of delicious foods: Mom is the color of French toast. Lena's friend Sonia is the color of creamy peanut butter. Isabella is chocolate brown like the cupcakes they had for her birthday. Lena's best friend, Jo-Jin, is the color of honey. Katz wrote and illustrated the story in affirmation of her adopted Guatemalan daughter and her friends, and the diversity that surrounds them. The message is heavy, but it's made palatable by the loving words and the brightly colored, lively illustrations, which are a combination of collage, gouache, and colored pencil. The pictures of Lena and her friends and city neighbors celebrate the delicious colors of the individual people, all brown, and each one different. --Hazel Rochman