White Flour is an absolutely beautifully illustrated children's book written by David LaMotte and illustrated by Jenn Hales. It that tells the true story of how the Coup Clutz Clowns effectively disrupted a Klu Klux Klan rally in Knoxville TN. As the story goes, when the Klan showed up for their march, they were met by a gaggle of Clowns dressed in colorful, exotic costumes. When the Klan began to shout "White Power," the Clowns retaliated with a host of whimsical retorts, including "White Flour," "White Flower," "Tight Shower," and, my favorite, "Wife Power." Flummoxed by the unexpected opposition, the Klan ends up abandoning their march, and the Clowns celebrate with a parade of their own.
After it came in the mail, I sat and read White Flour with my eight-year-old daughter. As we got started, I had to explain to her who the KKK were and what they meant by "White Power." She was a little freaked out to learn that there are people out there who would hate someone like her just because her skin is a darker tone. I was glad that her world hasn't yet included this kind of blatant prejudice. And I was also glad that she thought the KKK members in the book looked stupid and cowardly underneath their white robes.
The story itself is endearing and charming, even if some of the rhymes are a bit forced and wooden. The illustrations make up for the rhymes, however. They are gorgeous. My daughter wanted to linger on many pages and look at the details.
Best of all, the message of White Flour is that humor can win over hate. In our culture of 24-hour cable news where it seems like people just constantly shout at one another, it was refreshing to read of a group making their point with irony and laughter. Nowadays it seems like everyone is angry. Maybe we can learn something from the Coup Clutz Clowns and from the biblical wisdom that a soft answer turns away wrath. Maybe there is a more effective way of diffusing our political and cultural opponents than shouting louder than them. Maybe there is a more effective way to bring about change than dropping bombs - literal and metaphorical - on people with whom we disagree. Maybe we need to learn to laugh at the absurdity in both ourselves and others.
White Flour - official website
David LaMotte - author
Jenn Hales - illustrator