This book is extremely well-meaning in breaking down gender-specific colours but starts out actually managing to uphold gender stereotypes. It’s also serious about inclusion and diversity: you’ll see children of different colours, facial features and hair types, representing different ethnicities, as well as one who sits in a wheelchair.

  • Title: Pink is for Boys
  • Author: Robb Pearlman
  • Illustrator: Edna Kaban
  • Reading level: 4-7 years
  • Date published: June 5, 2018
  • Publisher: Running Press Kids, New York, an imprint of Perseus Books, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group
  • Country: USA
  • Country printed in: China
  • Printing: Not specified

4 things:
1. GENDER STEREOTYPES

While it tries to gender neutralise colours, the first two—pink and blue—actually uphold gender stereotypes! Pink is splashed all over a party scene where the girls wear only dresses. Blue is for “uniforms on a team”, and we see kids playing baseball. I think if the book really wanted to smash gender stereotypes then pink for baseball would have done the job. Plus, like its title the book could have focused only on pink for boys, in different situations. Otherwise a better title maybe “All colours are for boys and girls”.

2. ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Inclusion and diversity could be enhanced if, especially for the “fancy” occasions, the kids wore outfits to reflect cultures that their different colours and features hint at. Then you could have boys wearing not only trousers and shorts but also, e.g. thobes (long-sleeved ankle-length tunic worn by Gulf Arab men), or kimonos or kilts.

3. PICKED UP SPEED

Thankfully, it does get better with regards breaking down gender stereotypes. For red, a girl drives the car with a boy riding shotgun, and for purple, the boy in the wheelchair holds a purple and pink floating unicorn that wouldn’t be out of place in the My Little Pony series.

4. BEAUTIFUL, BUT LACKS NUANCE

Kaban’s illustrations and balance of colours almost effortlessly push the book along with happy, laughing, smiling kids. The illustrations are very well done. But for all the toothy grins, the book doesn’t hit depths quite like Yasmeen Ismail’s “I’m a Girl!”, which I reviewed on Jul 19. Now THAT book went all out to smash gender stereotypes. Try reading these two books side by side.