We’ll Paint the Octopus Red is a children’s picture book that has been recommended to me several times in the almost-four years I’ve been Avery’s mom. It’s a little bit like the “Welcome to Holland” essay in that it always seems to come up.
In it, a father reassures his daughter, who is a new sister to a baby with Down syndrome. The little girl is worried that the baby won’t be able to run, or play, or read, or paint, and the father tells her the baby will be able to do all these things, in time.
I have a problem with the book, for this reason: if your child, (or children) has experienced only positive attitudes and love for their sibling with Down syndrome, then it serves as a very first introduction to the negative stereotypes of DS.
Tom and I had a discussion about reading this book at the B&N event. He, like many parents, read it and saw the father’s concern, and the daughter’s eventual acceptance.
I felt differently. I said I couldn’t sit at the front of the group and look out at all the little faces, one of them belonging to Avery, and read the words, “If Issac has this Down thing, what can’t he do?”
We chose instead to read My Friend Isabelle, which I can read to anyone, anytime (see the post below). And I’m glad I did. Looking out over the crowd, I noticed three teenagers with Down syndrome. I’d talked with them earlier, about haircuts, clothes, and the new Melissa Riggio CD.
I knew, looking out at them, that the words about all the things people with DS can’t do would have been hurtful–and ridiculous.
Have you read this book, and if so, what do you think? Am I being too hard on it?