Author-illustrator Lori Doody’s new book, Paint the Town Pink, hews to the same lines as her 2017 title, The Puffin Problem, a comical portrayal of the fallout from the sudden inundation of puffins in a coastal Newfoundland city (something that happens annually in Doody’s hometown of St. John’s).
This time, the visitor is solitary and notably more exotic: a pink flamingo, apparently blown all the way from Cuba by a storm. The locals take an immediate shine to the outsider, who “wasn’t the first unusual visitor, but […] was certainly the most flamboyant,” and name her Rose. She doesn’t appeal just to the humans: even cats and dogs warm to her. For her part, Rose sees in the friendly faces and colourful surroundings a fun place she might want to call home.
Until doubt strikes. Rose, suddenly unsure whether she really fits in, goes in search of a flock. She drops by a wedding party, a yoga class, and a flamenco performance, “but none of them felt quite right.” Sensing her uncertainty, the townspeople decide to do whatever they can to help Rose feel at home. They start wearing pink clothes, eating pink foods, they even paint their homes and buildings pink. The gambit pays off; by book’s end, Rose is “as happy as a lark.”
Doody’s delicately naive drawings are as delightful as ever – particularly her birds and animals. Like her previous books, this one ends with a page of facts about its subject. (Did you know a group of flamingos is called a flamboyance?)
The three-to-eight-year-olds at whom the picture book is aimed will be able to relate to Rose’s experience – whether they’ve recently walked into a school classroom for the very first time or found themselves the newcomer in other situations. Adult readers may see things from a slightly broader perspective: Rose, after all, is a refugee, or an immigrant, in all but name.
Ultimately, Doody’s is a simple, lighthearted tale and an apt portrayal of the geniality and hospitality for which Newfoundlanders are rightly famous.