_Delilah_ is a picture book for 4-8 year olds. It is the first picture book I have ever seen with a pro-geek, pro-homeschooling message.
Farmer Red wants a lamb for wool and for company. The factory farm sells expensive sheep that are one year old and have been fully trained in obediance, grazing and wool production. All Red can afford is one little unschooled lamb. He names her Delilah. She is curious and eager to be with him, so he teaches her all sorts of ways to help around the farm. Delilah spends all year learning how to take care of plants and the other animals. For Christmas Red gives Delilah a collar with a bell. Red enjoys Delilah's company so much that in the spring he uses the money from her wool to buy a dozen year-old sheep.
But the factory sheep aren't like Delilah. They have been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that all they should do is graze and grow wool. They don't want to work or even to play. And they want nothing to do with Delilah as long as she "acts like a person."
Red is unhappy because Delilah is unhappy. Delilah wonders if there is something wrong with her. She asks the sheep what it will take to be accepted by them as a "normal" sheep. They order her to give up her individuality and become a nameless member of the herd. It breaks Delilah's heart, but she can't stand being an outcast any longer. Red finds her discarded collar, and it breaks his heart too.
For months Delilah tries to be a "normal" sheep and not do anything except graze. The effort makes her and Red miserable, and the other sheep are just as mean to her as they were before. Finally Delilah can't stand it any longer, and joyfully goes back to being Red's friend and helper.
"As for the other sheep? They keep to themselves and eat their grass and can't understand why Delilah would want to do any differently. When they see her with Red, they make nasty faces, but Delilah doesn't care. It's a farm after all, and there's work to be done."
I'm so glad to see a picture book that celebrates individuality and achievement. May this book help many young children fight off the corrosive effects of peer pressure to "conform". But for me the best part of the book is how I got it. My sister-in-law gave it to my older daughter for her 6th birthday, and the book represents my sister-in-law's ringing endorsement and support of our decision to homeschool our children.
I whole-heartedly recommend this book for any child who is homeschooled or who just needs encouragement to stand out from the crowd.
John Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of Madeline. This book is Marciano's first work for children that features original characters.