It’s a perfect day to walk the dog. So jingle the leash, hook it onto your pooch’s collar and take a walk to your nearest indie bookstore. Have I got a picture book for you. Fetch a copy of the best of the best in a recently released book entitled, Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson. This picture book is the perfect pairing of art and words. The cover image of the resilient and trusting Gaston in an upholstered flowery chair with his paw on a book is arresting. Who could resist opening Gaston? While the art is delightful and the text is perfection it is the powerful message that makes it exceptional. We know from the start that Gaston is different from his litter mates. Their names, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-la-la tell you their breed. Gaston may be French but he is no poodle. He is an adorable white puppy though and as his features, size, and abilities grow the reader notices just how different he becomes. When a trip to the park brings his poodle family and a French bulldog family together it’s obvious. He looks as if he belongs with them. But how does he feel? We meet Gastons everyday, children who look different from their families. You don’t have to look like the members of your family to belong. DiPucchio and Robinson have done a masterful job of telling a puppy dog’s story in sumptuous color and pattern with magical read aloud text. I simply love this book!
A book with this message has a place in every educator’s classroom. I consult in mainstream classrooms with children who look different because they wear hearing aids or cochlear implants to listen. Picture books like Gaston that embrace diversity offer reassurance that the family you are in, the classroom you are in, the community you are in, is where you belong even if it’s obvious you are different. And what better reminder to always trust what feels right? Gaston, oh Gaston!