A simple message, may be. An important message? Absolutely! In just 28 pages Renee Fogorty challenges the use of the term half-caste and challenges the negative pre judging of a person based on skin colour. More? She does this in a simple, delightful manner perfect for educating little ones - for it is lack of knowledge and education that breads racism.
Renee's beautiful story features Mary. Descending from her black guuni and her white babeen, her pale skin resulted in Mary feeling lonely and isolated from her peers. When Mary suffers from comments such as ...
"you're not like us."
... Old Ned, a community elder, steps in and teaches them all about respect and kindness.
"We all brothers and sisters in this life, no matter what colour we are. You should cherish each other"
The thick brush strokes of Renee's illustrations are dominated by the oranges and reds reflecting the dusty cattle station where this is set. The wide, bright eyes of each of the younger characters portray them as open to receiving the wisdom from their elders. Old Ned, in comparison, has smaller eyes depicting his wise nature. I loved the silhouetting of the gum tree behind the characters, often accompanied by Aboriginal art celebrating Renee's own culture.
This was completed by Renee as part of her Year 12 project, drawing on her passion for art and Aboriginal Studies. Renee has used her age to her advantage and produced an effectively simple story communicating a wonderful message. Quite conceivably it is Renee's age that accounts for the welcome absence of a patronising tone that can often accompany children's books designed to 'teach' a specific lesson. Fair Skin Black Fella deserves to be in all school libraries.
If you are looking to make older children more aware of the implications of the language they choose then take a look at Half-Caste by John Agard. Even better, search on youtube for a video of him performing this poem - brilliant!
Fair Skin Black Fella has also been reviewed over at Anita Heiss' blog.