White Flour, the brainchild of David LaMotte, is inspired by the true account of a white supremacist hate group that gathered for a rally in Tennessee in May of 2007. The plan: to stir up trouble to advance their cause. But little does the Ku Klux Klan know what hits them when they meet up with the Coup Klutz Clowns, who counter hatred with humor, and throw that Klan off their game plan.
White Flour is intended for an audience of middle school students and upward. LaMotte, in the poetic rhyming manner of Dr. Seuss, begins with, “The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be / In the hills of Apallachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
He continues on in rhyme with the Klansmen coming into town, waving their fists and shouting “White power!” To their surprise, the local activists show up in clown costumes and “misunderstand” the message. They shout “White flour!” and have a flour fight between them. They again misunderstand, “White flowers!” This time, the clowns have a skirmish among themselves with white flowers. And on it goes with “Wife power!” and other nonsensical misinterpretations until the Klansmen leave because they just can’t get the floor with the shenanigans the Coup Klutz Clowns dish out.
The illustrations, by Jenn Hales, capture the fun and strike a balance between the somber threat hatred brings into an environment and the humor that erupts. The poetry also brings this story into a unique arena to open a dialogue with children and others on what happened that day in Tennessee.
As a teacher, I love the way this book approaches the theme of racial injustice. LaMotte does an excellent job of narrating the story and capturing the whimsy of the local group and the surprise of the Klansmen. Both the writing and the illustrations capture the attention of readers from this age through adulthood. LaMotte mentions he wanted to showcase alternative ways to aggression. It’s not just “fight or flight.” Humorous non-violence triumphes over hatred that day.
In my ESL classes, I am always looking for unique materials that not only communicate the cultural realities that we, both the United States and the world, face today but also open the door for positive discussion. I want to reinforce with my students that we must accept each other whatever our background or physical appearance. White Flour serves as a great vehicle to launch this kind of discussion. It would work well with adult ESL students at intermediate level or higher.
Growing up, racial injustice disturbed me. I think discussing this early helps younger members of society make informed decisions before negative stereotypes form and become part of their make-up. It also helps to address this book in multicultural environments. The author chooses a unique vehicle for this story when he put it in poetry form. Teaching from real life has the added benefit that it actually happened so it has that much more credence.
If you want to learn more about the recently-released White Flour, by David LaMotte, click on the following link: http://www.whiteflourbook.com/2012/04/welcome/. If you want to hear the poem performed, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCeUakDtXkA&feature=youtu.be