White Flour! (David LaMotte’s new book)

So I’ve got about 10 blog drafts backed up in the queue, including Stedman Part 2, but this one will be quick and easy. I review books now! Not on a really regular basis, but I joined this blog network called Speakeasy, and they send me books that I’m interested in exchange for nothing more than an honest review. How awesome is that?!

With the program, I’m not required to give a positive review, only an honest one, but, honestly, I LOVED “White Flour” by David LaMotte. It’s a picture-book retelling of a real incident that happened in Knoxville, TN, in 2007. The book tells the story, in rhyme, with whimsical illustrations, of how a hate rally was met by an organized group of clowns who just refused to take the haters seriously. The title of the book is a reference to one of the (many) misunderstandings between the KKK marchers and the clowns. The marchers yell “White Power!” and the clowns respond with a celebration of “White flour!” – filling the air with the powdery stuff. As the hate marchers insist on their chant, the clowns persist in their confusion – “White flowers!” “Tight showers!” “Wife power!” After a while the haters give up and go home and everyone has a party.
The author admits in the back to taking one or two creative liberties with the actual events from Knoxville, but the point of the book isn’t the historical accuracy so much as the spirit of the clowns’ resistance. This would work as a parable even if it hadn’t been inspired by true events. The magic of the story is in the creative response to hostility, and the refusal to fight hate with hate. I collect picture books because I teach small children, but there are a few that I would own even if I didn’t. “The Giving Tree” is one. “White Flour” is another. Its illustration of a “third way” in places of conflict is full of mischief and joy and hope. While neither I nor David LaMotte believe that all conflicts can be solved with clowns, we share a hope for creative combat in places of darkness.

Although the story is told in a picture book (fitting for a real-life parable about clowns), it is aimed at a youth/young adult audience, not young children. You could totally read it to young children, but you’d have to explain a lot of background information about the KKK, and some of the nuances might be lost on them even then. I’ve been teaching kindergartners for 10 years, and I guarantee that the vast majority of them would enjoy the book, but remember nothing except the “Tight showers!” page. If you want to talk to your young child about racism, you might want to start with something more accessible.  But if you work with youth in any way, or are involved in addressing racism or educating others about racism in adult contexts, I could totally see adapting it into adult as well as youth workshops.

I’m very please to add this book to my shelf 🙂 For more info, visit whiteflourbook.com




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