A Bad Case of Stripes
Author/illustrator -David Shannon
Genre- Children’s literature
Publisher-Blue Sky Press (Scholastic Press)
What do you do when you wake up one morning covered head to toe in thick, colorful stripes? What if your body reacts to the whims and fancies of people, including your schoolmates, doctors, herbalist, and gurus?
They call out a design, and your skin, in a mad rush, erupts in patterns, colors, and shapes, like a circus performer taking requests. And faster than one can jump from one TV channel to another.
From polka dots, Star-Spangled Banner of red and white, to sprouting roots, berries, furry feathers, and even a long tail, poor Camilla Cream endures it all. She even merges into the room only because an environmentalist suggests ‘deep breaths and becoming one with the room’ could be the cure of her strange ailment, after all.
The story is gripping and fast-paced. It’s an edge-of-the-seat thriller in the picture book category. The suspense keeps mounting, and no remedy is in sight. The vibrant, realistic illustrations and Camilla’s facial expressions of deep horror and misery start reflecting on your little one’s face as you go ahead. The five-year-old didn’t want to read further at one point in the story, as Camilla’s predicament got too much for her to handle. But the mystery fan in her wanted to keep treading.
Camilla soon becomes a laughingstock and ends up getting ‘squeezed and jabbed, tapped and tested’ by clueless adults. The dilemma concludes when an old lady with Lima beans appears to Camilla’s aid.
Camilla has a deep connection with Lima beans. Will she accept it? Will that save her from her terrible circumstances? Did she create the horror for herself?
Shannon plots a beautiful mystery for children with profound lessons of peer pressure, self-denial, and self-images ingrained in the plot. The denouement unravels the puzzle, and children have that ‘aha’ moment as they realize the cause of it all.
At first, the plot and illustrations may seem a bit spooky to the sensitive kids, but these delicate hearts need it the most. Conforming to peer pressure and hiding one’s true self begins much earlier than the presumed teenage years.
We’ve read the book at least four times, and I know we will return to it again. The lessons of self-acceptance cannot be repeated enough. The spook factor has entirely disappeared with frequent readings—replaced by laughter and joy, as the kids already know that Camilla is heading towards a happy ending.
Shannon conveys that loving oneself- being weird, unconventional, and standing out amongst the crowd is okay, and why it is okay to be not liked by everyone.
That’s a profound concept, and I have seen adults struggling with that most fundamental principle.
Go for this gorgeous book to plant the seeds of self-love early on!
Maybe the message will take roots in some remote corner of your child’s brain, making them accept their weirdness and quirks a tad bit easier.
As for summarizing the book in one line, I can just say:
Be weird. Be whacko. Own your magic.