The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh
Review Copy from Sterling Children's Books
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh is a standout picture book for sensitively telling the story of a child's efforts to cope with big life changes. Kelkar and Marley's charming picture book is sure to introduce many readers to the patka, the turban Sikhs wear to signify their commitment to service, justice and love. Yet, rather than using the fact that Harpreet and his family are Sikhs as a tool for teaching children about diversity, acceptance and cultural differences, Kelkar has written a book about feelings that will help children understand and express their emotions.
Harpreet loves colors and he expresses this with his daily choice of patka - yellow for when he is "feeling sunny, spreading cheer everywhere," pink for celebrating and red for when he needs courage. When Harpreet's mother gets a job in a "snowy town across the country," Harpreet wears a gray patka to express his sadness. In his new home, Harpreet always dons his white patka, which he wears when he feels shy and doesn't want to be seen. He even wears it for the class party, where an illustration shows Harpreet surrounded by red and pink Valentine's cards, all addressed to him. A page turn shows Harpreet, white patka on, having lunch at school, where all the eyes are on his lunch, which is noticeably different. Yet, there is no sense of ostracizing or negativity in the expressions of Harpreet's classmates, just curiosity. One day, Harpreet finds a bright yellow hat in the snow as he walks to school. Knowing exactly who it belongs to, he returns it to his classmate, Abby. Abby compliments Harpreet's hat and he replies, "Mine's not a hat, actually. It's called a patka," to which Abby responds, "Mine's itchy." The two laugh and, it's not long before Harpreet is wearing his yellow, pink, and red patkas again, sharing conversation, celebration and food with his new friend. Kelkar reserves the afterword for sharing details with readers about the Sikh religion and patkas.
Kelkar ends her book in the spring, with Harpreet and his mother outside, surrounded by beautiful plants and chirping birds, and looking happy. When asked what color patka he will wear the next day, and in a lovely moment that truly shows how Harpreet has adjusted and adapted to the changes in his life, he responds, "Maybe white. It reminds me of snow."
In the afterword, Simran Jeet Singh, a scholar and professor of Sikhism, gives readers a brief description of this religion as well as a deeper understanding of the importance of the patka and what it means to put it on every morning.