My hair is red, just like Mom’s. I have Dad’s freckly nose. My eyes are blueberry-blue, just like Grandma’s. And I have Grandpa’s magical laugh that makes everyone smile.
I am the way I am. I’m Lili Macaroni.
Lili Macaroni loves reading her favourite books, making up songs and stories, drawing polka-dotted butterflies, and counting the stars. She is proud of who she is—until she begins school. At school, her new friends laugh at her name and call her Lili Macaroni-and-cheese. They make fun of her red hair, saying she looks like a pumpkin. They say her blueberry eyes are squinty and that she has spots on her nose. They say she laughs like a parrot.
Lili is deeply saddened and searches for a way to cure her heartache. She takes her dad’s suggestion of using her beautiful butterfly drawings to help. She cuts out one of her butterflies, clips it to her shoulder, and wears it like that to school so that her heartache would fly away. After explaining to her teacher, Mrs. Tamara, and the class why she needed to wear the butterfly, others understood why Lili was feeling sad, and they all came to school another day wearing their own butterfly drawings on their shoulders—even Mrs. Tamara! Lili learns that, no matter what causes her heart to ache, she can always make more butterflies to help the pain fly away.
Nicole Testa writes Lili Macaroni’s name in a unique orange, cursive font throughout the text. Even when Lili feels like erasing herself and reimagines her life with a new image, she still knows deep down that she must stay true to who she is—Lili Macaroni. Illustrator Annie Boulanger uses fun, playful colours to match Lili’s personality with the exception of a gloomy, grey colour palette on the pages when Lili’s heart is aching.
Lili Macaroni sends the message to children that they should be always stay true to who they are, no matter what others say or think, and that there are always solutions to help mend a broken heart. Lili Macaroni would still be a suitable addition to home collections and kindergarten classroom libraries due to the storyline. In particular, it would be a useful book to teach resilience and empathy. One noteworthy critique is the lack of cultural diversity reflected in the character images. With the exception of one child, all of the characters are fair-skinned.
Andrea Boyd is an early years’ teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a graduate student at the University of Manitoba.