I really appreciate the generally positive and optimistic outlook of We'll Paint the Octopus Red.Instead of focusing primarily on limitations and problems, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen's narrative focuses on the fact that many children with Down Syndrome can, indded, do anything and be anything. That being said, I do wonder if the message of there being seemingly no limitations is not a bit overly optimistic.I don't know all that much about Down Syndrome, but I do know that there are variations, and while some individuals face only limited developmental and/or health issues, others face more serious, more difficult challenges.
Like my GR friend Kathryn, I don't think that it is entirely realistic or even fair for We'll Paint the Octopus Red to attempt to show that there are no (or hardly any) challenges and potential limitations associated with Down Syndrome. I am glad that the book celebrates ability and potential instead of focusing on disability and limitations, but the possibility for limitations, for serious challenges does exist and should at least have been mentioned.In a worst case scenario, this omission might make it difficult for a child to accept and understand limitations and challenges encountered and experienced by siblings, relatives, friends, schoolmates etc. who have Down Syndrome.
I did enjoy the back-and-forth between father and daughter, how both of them ask and answer, how both of them comfort and support one another.Emma is not kept in the dark about her brother's Down Syndrome; she comforts and reassures her father as much as he comforts and reassures her. Emma's father approaches his daughter as a person with feelings and questions, questions that require answers and are answered (Emma is not seen or approached as a child "too young to understand" there is also no secrecy surrounding Isaac's Down Syndrome).
I was surprised how much I enjoyed Pam DeVito's illustrations.I think they provide a fitting complement to the text, and I love how the illustrations clearly show a distinct family resemblance (red hair, blue eyes, even the facial expressions of Emma and her father are similar).I also think that DeVito has managed to successfully depict a baby/toddler with Down Syndrome, without having Isaac's features appear as either too exaggerated or too muted (you can tell that his face, especially his eyes are a bit different from the rest of the family, but there is nevertheless a strong family resemblance).
I think that We'll Paint the Octopus Red would be a good book for families who have or who are expecting a baby with Down Syndrome (the book could be a wonderful source of information for siblings and provide both comfort and answers).The informative question/answer section at the back of the book is an added bonus, and would also make this a good book for classroom use (perhaps in conjunction with a unit on special needs, physical challenges etc.).I could also imagine using We'll Paint the Octopus Red in a kindergarten or preschool classroom where one or more students have Down Syndrome; it might provide information, answer questions and make both the students with Down Syndrome and their classmates feel more at ease with each other.
This is another case where I wish that Goodreads would allow for half star ratings.For me, We'll Paint the Octopus Red is definitely a three and a half star book (four stars is really too high, and three stars a bit too low).Hopefully, half star ratings will be made available sometime in the future; it would make ratings and reviews much more accurate (for me at least).
eBook We'll Paint the Octopus Red