In 2013 when I learned the baby in my belly was of the female variety, my 6-year-old niece declared that the theme of her nursery should be “rainbow zebra.”
Despite my opting not to go that route (her nursery is periwinkle and green), that saturated steed has been a mainstay in my daughter’s 3-and-a-half years of life.
At a craft fair the year after her birth, I happened upon a pairing of the Rainbow Zebra cloth book and accompanying stuffed toy. Soon enough, “Rainbow BEEZA!” became part of our nightly routine. I can recite it by heart. Meanwhile, her aunts, cousin and of course, yours truly, added to her polychromatic pony collection with toys, clothing and artwork.
My girl’s interest in Rainbow Zebra has currently waned in favor of Minnie Mouse and Every. Single. Disney princess. But I won’t let our favorite multicolored mammal fade into the past. I cherish memories of reading (and reciting) that story with her nestled in my lap so many times. Maybe, for me, it’s a way to cling to her babyhood a little longer.
And, thanks to Links of London, I have my very own Rainbow Zebra, to honor my precious princess. It arrived in the mail this week, all the way from the U.K.
Maybe even more than clinging to every bit of my girl’s childhood I can keep, I believe the message the story bears is one particularly important right now for every child, every person: It’s OK to be different and always love who you are.
For those interested, the full text of the story is below. I’ve as yet been unable to determine who wrote the book, but to him or her, I say thank you for the brightly hued happy memories.
Once in a jungle far away, a herd of zebras spent each day. They grazed on grasses in the sun. They pranced and played and had great fun. They all wore stripes of black and white, which to the zebras seemed just right. “Black and white’s the way to be,” they all agreed contentedly.
They were quite happy with their lot, except for one. His stripes were not black and white but a brighter hue…yellow, green and red and blue. This little zebra said with a sigh, “I want to be like you…oh why can’t I be black and white too, not yellow, red and green and blue?”
He tried to scrub his stripes away! He tried to fade them in the sun! He tried to cover they with clay! But nothing worked. No way. Not one. So finally one dismal day he waved, “Farewell!” and went away. He told the herd, “I must go see if somewhere there’s someone like me.”
He walked until he came by chance upon a place called Jungle Ranch. “Here,” he said, “I hope maybe to find someone who looks like me.” He met a leopard wearing lots of splendid orange polka dots. A silly green gazelle was there and a sleepy lion with red hair. He met all sorts of jungle creatures with bright colors and pleasant features. “You’re nice,” he said, “as nice as can be, but none of you are striped like me.”
And so he walked for hours and hours until he came to the Land of Flowers. Their smiling faces were green and blue and red and pink and yellow too. “But none of you are striped like me,” the zebra sighed unhappily.
And now quite tired, he lay his head upon the fragrant flower bed. He woke again to thunder and lightning and rain so heavy it was frightening. A dreadful storm had come to pass. It shook the trees. It shook the grass.
And when at last the storm passed by. A rainbow arched across the sky. The zebra smiled with great delight at seeing such a wondrous sight. “A rainbow’s beautiful to see. And it is striped…just like me.”
So from that day he took great pride, in his own multicolored hide. Back to the herd he brought a glow, the beauty of his own rainbow.