culture, holiday, lgbtq+, spotlight

Spotlight: Holi Hai!/Love, Violet

Holi Hai! (AW Teen)
Written by Chitra Soundar
Illustrated by Darshika Varma

For ages: 4-8
Holi is a Hindu festival also known as “The Festival of Colors” centered on the love given to humanity by the deity Radha Krishna. Its purpose is to celebrate the end of cold dark winters and the start of a warm jubilant spring. Over one night and one day, people feast and dance. Hindus are encouraged to forgive & forget past transgressions and heal broken relationships. The morning after is when Rangwali Holi happens. This is a big free for all, where participants smear each other with colored powders and play with water guns and balloons. People romp through the neighborhood singing and simply celebrating that they are all in each other’s life. The color fights mock the arguments that create dissonance throughout the year.

In Holi Hai! young Gauri is so excited to celebrate this year. Each family member will make their gulal (color powder) and pick slips of paper from a hat to find out what they will make. Gauri is the only member of her family that ends up furious. She wanted yellow but ended up with red. So instead of getting to work, Gauri pouts and stomps while everyone else is making their gulal. Grandfather tells her the story behind Holi, where a great hero must fight against the anger a demon has put in his heart. Gauri learns how to let go of that anger she has and find joy in life through the story.

You’ll notice immediately while reading this book the bold colors that make perfect sense with the holiday’s centerpiece celebration. Darshika Varma follows a trend in picture book illustrations I’ve noticed of portraying characters in a very large-eyed Disney aesthetic. It will undoubtedly pull in kids who love those sorts of animated features. I wish there had been a style more directly inspired by traditional Hindu art to introduce students to new aesthetics. However, it is still an excellent book that will introduce unfamiliar audiences to a beautiful celebration of loving each other.


1. Henna tattoos are a big part of Hindu culture and celebration. If you do not have someone in your area who can make henna, you can always purchase a kit with stencils and make them yourself. 

2. Celebrate with your own throwing of the colors by getting some color powder. Make sure to do this one outside because you do not want to have the mess on your floor and walls.

3. Have your student write a journal about when they got into an argument with someone. Then, in the spirit of Holi, have them share how that relationship was repaired. If there is still conflict, have the students brainstorm strategies to help move their friendship past this obstacle.

Love, Violet (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux)
Written by Charlotte Sullivan Wild
Illustrated by Charlene Chua

For ages: 4-8
Around 1st grade is when you start to see kids beginning to have crushes on each other. It’s a natural extension of social development, having feelings of affection for others. Of course, dating is a little too advanced at this age, so these crushes often become strong friendships. It is a beautiful thing to watch develop in children. It’s that moment where the narcissism of early childhood starts to crumble away, and we learn to observe and listen to others and genuinely care about what they think and have to say. All these things are true not just of straight CIS children but LGBTQ+ kids as well. Even now, with society being a little more open, being an LGBTQ+ kid with a crush is scary. Not only is there the fear of embarrassment that everyone experiences, but there is also the terror of rejection because you are gay. 

Author Charlotte Sullivan Wild had crushes when she was little towards other girls in her classes. Unfortunately, there was no mainstream literature that portrayed what she was feeling at that time. She confessed how scared she was at the time, trying to understand herself. In her book, we follow Violet, who daydreams about classmate Mira. She loves being around Mira, but when her crush speaks to her, Violet freezes up and runs away. Eventually, the little girl expresses herself through art and makes an extra special Valentine for Mira. The next day at recess, Violet bumps into Mira, and Valentine goes flying out from under her hat and is soaked in snow. This causes Violet to express herself with words and is so scared that Mira will say she doesn’t want to be her friend anymore. Thankfully, Mira is more than happy, and our story ends on a very happy note.

It is vital for books like this to exist, not just for LGBTQ+ children but all children. It helps them see how tender people’s emotions can be and how important empathy is in life. The detailed watercolor illustrations capture children’s movement, always running from one thing to another. And I love that characters showcase a diverse spectrum of skin color. In a time where LGBTQ+ children across the States are legitimately terrified of vindictive legislatures who want to make them illegal people, having books on the shelf that speak to queer experiences cannot be understated. I hope books like these can have some part in repairing the great harm happening in America at the moment.


1. Your students can also express appreciation for a person in their life by making a Valentine in the style of Violet’s. Emphasize how important it is to be colorful and have a loving message inside.

2. Students can journal about when they were terrified to tell a person something. This could be a crush or having to admit they made a mistake. Make a poster that gives other kids things they can do to face their fears and work past them.

3. Have a talk with your student about what it feels like for people who don’t see themselves in the media often. Share ways we can include these people to have role models and examples to look up to. 

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