Bright April Essay - Critical Context

Marguerite de Angeli

Critical Context

Bright April was an important novel in the 1940’s, a decade that featured few multicultural children’s books, because it has an African American both as a main character and as a positive role model. Until that time, few children’s books even included minorities among their characters. Bright April is, therefore, a landmark book.

Although de Angeli had more than twenty self-illustrated books to her credit, only Bright April features an African American as a main character. Historians of children’s literature recognized this book as her breakthrough novel. Because of Bright April, de Angeli is considered a pioneering author and illustrator.

The “likeness” among people in Bright April was an important idea to present in a society that often concentrated on differences and inequalities. De Angeli stressed similarities and equality among all people in both the text and illustrations of Bright April. For example, the only real difference in the sweet, pretty faces of the “pinks” and of those “the color of coffee” is the shading. Neither the text nor the illustrations in Bright April accentuate physical differences or cultural diversity, but, given the time period, this omission seems appropriate. Bright April, however, is not without flaws. On occasion, it seems to lack realism: That a minority child in the 1940’s could be almost ten years old before encountering racial prejudice is highly unlikely. The novel abounds with propaganda about morals and values and imposes many facts and much information upon the reader. The closing references to Bible verses may be offensive to some groups. As a result, Bright April may be too preachy for some youngsters.

Nevertheless, Bright April was an important milestone in children’s literature and was by no means a commonplace achievement. De Angeli’s introduction of important, positive minority characters who possess common qualities helped to ready the public for later books that portrayed minorities even more realistically.