Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color

Credit: Julia Denos

Denos, Julia. Swatch: The girl who loved color. Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins, 2016. 40 pages. HC $17.99 ISBN 978-0-062-36638-2.

On the surface Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color seems like a great story about color, creativity, and respecting the freedoms of others. Unfortunately, the illustrations are what make this book one to reconsider, rather than one to be lauded. While it’s true that the pictures are engaging and full of vibrant colors that pop off the page, this is marred by the fact that Swatch is often seen sporting stereotypical Native “war paint” and ribbon headbands. While not every page spread shows these images, the ones that do definitely evoke “playing indian” and feelings of cultural appropriation.

Below you can view the book trailer for Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color which showcases some of its potentially offensive images.

Although the images are the main critique of this work, some of the text is also troublesome. The book opens with the phrase “In a place where colors ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still.” Use of the word “wild” to describe Swatch, a character heavily reminiscent of Native American stereotypes, is problematic due to the fact that Natives have so often been falsely described as being “wild” and “savage.” Some might argue that this critique is simply looking for problems where there are not any, but as information professionals we need to be willing to look at work critically and be aware of how these seemingly small issues might affect our diverse patrons.