One by Kathryn Otoshi

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Why get a “normal” counting book when you can use an anti-bullying one?

I am always on the lookout for new books that share not just gorgeous art and storytelling, but also positive messages with my kiddo. When I came across Kathryn Otoshi’s colors and counting picture book called One, I knew I had found a winner.

The story personifies colors. Blue is a quiet little color, for example, who likes to do blue things, like jumping in water or sky gazing, while orange is outgoing, green is bright and purple is regal. The illustrations are very simple—just blobs of watercolor for each personified color—but they’re also very bright and help illustrate the personality. Regal purple is very composed, for example, while sunny yellow has fuzzy protrusions that make it look like the sun.

Then hot head red, a huge, towering color, hits the scene and bullies blue by saying, “Red is hot. Blue is not.” Then it showed the blue color flattened and watered down, feeling bad about itself. And while the other colors attempt to comfort blue, they never stand up for blue—until one day, after Red gets bigger and bigger and bullies all of the colors, a gray number one comes along and tells Red, “No!” It’s really that simple, and with that one instance of standing up for itself and its friends, number one inspired the rest of the colors to stand up to red. Then the colors turn into numbers as they count off saying, “No!” to the big red color.

First Red gets angrier and tries to hurt Blue, but the rest of the colors help him and they stand together. Red feels tiny until one tells him that he can count, too, and red becomes the number seven on the last page, where the numbers shout together, “Everyone counts!”

Isn’t that a marvelous story? I particularly like how the colors are used to personify how bullying works and makes you feel—and then the ending, how even the bully can count as an important member of the group. Most anti-bullying books seem to focus more on one-upping the bully rather than integrating him or her into the group, which is really what often needs to occur anyway in order for peace to really be achieved.

This is such a wonderful book. My seven year old loved it, but I know kids much younger will, too. I would heartily recommend it for any library or classroom to help make everyone feel counted.