Reviews for What Color Is Caesar?

Booklist Reviews 2009 December #2
First turned into a picture book in 1978, Kumin's tale is an identity story in which the protagonist is a dog who's worried about his looks. "He was either all white with a great many black spots or all black with even more white ones. . . . He didn't know which." Friend's playful gouache illustrations capture both the sweetness and the anxiety of Caesar as he sets out from his comfortable home in search of answers. He gets his favorite one from a carnival guru who loves lollipops: "On the surface you are the color you are . . . deep down in your heart. . . . You are whatever color you want to be." This is a longer-than-usual picture book with more than the usual amount of text, but Kumin's engaging story and its many whimsical details (the dog's doctor is a black-and-white woodpecker, for instance) will keep young readers' attention as Caesar realizes that he is actually all seven colors of the rainbow. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Caesar the dog is "very worried" because he doesn't know if he's white with black spots or black with white spots. His search for self-definition leads to the understanding that it's what's on the inside that matters most. Inescapable racial overtones dominate the text-heavy story, and not even Friend's cheerful gouache illustrations lighten the load. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 January #2
A faux-philosophical problem, predictable plot and overlong text combine to create a disappointingly dull adventure. Caesar the Great Dane is obsessed with the question of whether he's black with white spots or vice versa. He gets no help from the cat, the doctor (who is, inexplicably, a woodpecker), a cow, a pony or a zebra. All are pictured patterned black and white, but each believes itself to be some other color entirely, except for the cat, who just doesn't care. The pony, for example, claims to be green based in part on his birth in the "green pasture in the green month of May." When the zebra, part of a traveling circus, directs him to a "make-believe guru" named Harry, Caesar finally finds an answer, sort of. Told that he can be any color "in [his] heart" Caesar decides that he is all the colors of the rainbow and rushes home for dinner. Friend's paintings, executed in gouache and featuring wide-eyed characters and a sunny pastoral setting, are pleasant enough but don't redeem this tedious tale. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2010 February

Gr 1-3--Caesar is a white dog with black spots. Or maybe he's a black dog with white spots. He's not sure, and his preoccupation with this dilemma is at the heart of this book. The pup seeks advice from other animals like him, including a black-and-white cat, a spotted pony, and a circus zebra. He even meditates on a soccer ball, wondering if he will ever have a definitive answer. In the end, each animal provides a small piece of a puzzle that is finally completed by a lollipop-sucking circus guru, and Caesar comes to realize that what's inside him is more important than what's outside. The concept that individuals cannot be defined in terms of black and white seems obvious to adults, but will be too subtle for young readers. Caesar's soul-searching takes too long to reach fruition, and why he is worrying about his appearance at all is a mystery; no one else is concerned about either his or their own. While children will enjoy the illustrations of the big, friendly spotted dog and the various cheerful animals he encounters, the verbose text will alienate them long before Caesar finds his answer. For books about being comfortable in one's own skin, revisit Jamie Lee Curtis's I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem (HarperCollins, 2002) or Helen Lester's Tacky the Penguin (Houghton, 1988).--Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA

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