Granted, decades have passed since those early same sex parent books (Heather must be done with college by now, yah?). And granted the two types of books have followed different paths. There's no attack-and-defend motif included in Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie, and I'm glad. We still need tons more picture books about interracial families, and we need some of them not to include any questioning of interracial families.
Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie succeeds at this. Raschka's paintings have wild, chaotic colors and frenetic lines, but the characters can be seen, and Poppy is white, and Nanna is brown, and the child protagonist (either Sourpuss or Sweetie Pie depending on her mood) is interracial. No one comes along to question that; the family doesn't need to defend or explain themselves to anyone.
I have concerns about one line in the book. Pleasure/cooperativeness and anger/belligerence make the girl shift from Sourpuss to Sweetie Pie and back again. In the bathtub, Sweetie Pie says "Oh, that feels good. Will you do my hair, Nanna? You make it so nice." Then a quick mood-shift and Sourpuss says "You pull it and you twist it and it hurts. Anyway, I don't like curly dark hair. I want long yellow hair." That's the line I have questions about. The book frames it as simply one among many things making her grumpy at that exact moment -- we know that because it's instantly followed by "There's soap in my eyes." It's framed as simply one among many tiny and fleeting details that makes this girl's visit good and bad (and good and bad).
It's hard for me to see that line about wanting long yellow hair as fleeting and tiny. The cultural pressure on a young light brown girl with curly dark hair to have "long yellow hair" is broad and deep. To me, it sticks out amongst the other things that bother her that day. I'm not saying that a kid herself couldn't experience annoyances that way -- "bad car trip, bad shampoo, hey I wish my hair were yellow, oh look a cupcake" -- that seems perfectly reasonable as her flow of thoughts. But to me, as an adult reader, I'm concerned about placing the wish for long yellow hair in that context of daily annoyances that will pass and don't really need discussion. I can't see it as "grass is always greener" or "kids always want new things" issue. A wish for long yellow hair, by a light brown girl with dark curly hair, shows a specific form of racism being inflicted on this character (by her society), and it deserves more serious treatment.
First it made me cringe because it undermined the model of an interracial family NOT being bombarded by the racist forces of the world. I feel strongly that we need books confronting racism directly AND we need books that simply show POC including interracial POC just plain old living life. I thought this book was going to be the latter, but it's the former. But it's not really the former either, and this makes me cringe too -- her wish never gets discussed or addressed, she just says it and moves on and it never comes up again.
Where does that leave her wish? Does the text, by including this wish but never addressing it, support it? Lend it any power, infuse it with any bit of validity? Can there be political neutrality on a wish like this? (I think not.) What does it mean to place her wish for long yellow hair in the context of a wish for a bath and a wish to play some music? What do you think?