Saturday, October 8, 2011

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald No Combina. Written by Monica Brown; Illustrated by Sara Palacios; Spanish Translation by Adriana Dominguez; San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press, 2011. Ages 4 - 8

Marisol McDonald doesn’t match! Her clothes don’t match. Her peanut butter and jelly burritos don’t match. And her brown skin and red hair certainly don’t match. Despite the fact that her lack of coordination is repeatedly pointed out to her, Marisol is happy with her mismatched lifestyle. That is, until, a classmate poses the ultimate challenge. Determined to prove that she can match, Marisol spends a day attempting to do so only to find herself miserable. 

In Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, Brown and Palacios combine their talents to tell a story that is, on the surface, about a little girl coming to terms with not conforming to expectations. On a deeper level, the book sheds light on the issues of identity and belonging biracial children often struggle with. Brown, the daughter of a Peruvian mother and a North American father who describes herself as a “mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage” draws from her own experiences as a multiracial child to write Marisol’s story.

Palacios’ brightly colored mixed-media illustrations, a combination of mediums that include collage, color pencils, pencil, markers and gouache, complement Brown’s story, but also serve to capture the diversity of Marisol’s world. The signs and notes posted in Marisol’s home and community are in both English and Spanish. Her classmates are white, African-American and Asian. Marisol’s teacher Ms. Apple, who with green eyes and brown skin appears to be biracial as well, is the individual who reaffirms and encourages the little girl to be herself. Palacios, a native of Mexico City, manages to perfectly convey the blandness that can come from trying to fit in with her illustration of Marisol standing in front of her mirror before heading off to school. Dressed from head to toe in orange that matches her hair, Marisol appears washed out, easily blending into the backgrounds of the illustrations that follow her day. 

Like Marisol, the book is also bilingual. The story is written in English with a Spanish translation that equally shares space on the pages. Marisol’s devil-may-care attitude and self-confidence will empower children who do not fit into cookie cutter molds because of their multiracial backgrounds, and will also appeal to any child who is beginning to develop an awareness of societal pressures to fit in. Her combination of dots, stripes and patterned Peruvian chullo hats is only a scratch at the surface of Marisol’s colorful story. While it appears that Marisol doesn’t match she is, in fact, representative of what American society is beginning to resemble. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match is a celebration of our increasingly colorful and less homogeneous nation.  

Kirkus Star for "books of remarkable merit"
Junior Library Guild Selection, Fall 2011

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