Reena's Rainbow by Dee White
Ill. by Tracie Grimwood. EK Books, ISBN 9781925335491
Reena is deaf and the little brown dog in the park is homeless. But even though her ears didn't work, her eyes did and she saw the things that others take for granted. So even though she couldn't hear the wind in the trees, she could still see the leaves swirling and Dog leap to catch the acorns.
When the children came to play hide and seek in the park she was very good at finding their hiding places, but when it was her turn to hide no one could find her and she couldn't hear them calling so they left her there alone. Luckily Dog was able to fetch her mother who explained that people are like the colours of the rainbow - each one different but together a strong and beautiful entity. But both Reena and Dog felt like they didn't belong in the rainbow. Will they ever fit in?
As well as windows that show readers a new world, stories should also be mirrors that reflect their own lives. Children, in particular, should be able to read about themselves and children like them in everyday stories so they understand they are not freaks and that others share their differences and difficulties. Reena's Rainbow is a wonderful addition to a growing collection of stories that celebrate the uniqueness of every person and not only show them they are not alone but also help others to understand their special needs. Imagine how frightened Reena must have felt when all the children left the park because they assumed she had gone home.
Young children are remarkably accepting and resilient - they don't see colour, language, dress or disability as a barrier to the child within - those are handicaps that adults impose on themselves - but the more stories like this that we share with them, the more likely they are to develop knowledge, understanding, tolerance and acceptance and thus develop into adults who embrace difference rather than shunning it. Close inspection shows that rainbows actually include every shade of every colour, not just those visible to the eye, and through Reena and Dog and characters like them we can all learn to discern the not-so-obvious beauty.