A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.Prov. 18:2-3
The picture book addresses themes of prejudice and racism. The characters, like the fool described in Proverbs 18, are not at all interested in hearing what Tyler has to say. Instead, they (literally) slam the door in his face. This story is based on a real life event in the author’s life.
Through his experience, Tyler learns more about loving and welcoming others, which is also what God does for us.
Although there aren’t explicit Christian references in the book, it so clearly addresses themes that are very important to God.
The Bible is full of verses that touch on similar social justice themes: about how God cares for the downtrodden, about not showing preferential treatment, about God creating everyone in His image.
What I Liked
Merritt’s language is simple, making the storyline accessible even for young readers/listeners.
Doors play a big role in the book, and I like that Merritt draws attention to them throughout the book—simply by using well-placed adjectives. Tyler moves away from home, and his welcoming blue door; the house with the beautiful wooden door, ironically, is not at all inviting. (Interestingly, while Tyler makes a positive initial observation about the home, he is met with judgement and distrust behind the door.) I feel that Merritt’s highlighting the door serves to emphasize their symbolic importance, as well, which is neat because little readers may otherwise miss the symbol. I think the graphic representation, in conjunction with the doors, makes them more memorable in the story.
The conversation between Tyler and Grandpa is so sweet. I like that Grandpa lists Tyler’s specific, lovable qualities “the twists and curls of your glorious hair… the beautiful mahogany of your skin,” to remind Tyler how wonderfully he was made— and to show how hateful it is for people to make judgments based on these traits. These descriptions are also wonderfully relatable for black readers.
Merritt concludes with an author’s note, following the story. This sweet message recalls the childhood events that sparked the book, and includes beautiful words of affirmation for the reader, as well as questions about how we respond when we see someone being excluded. The questions about Jack’s behavior also bring a more general emphasis to the story, as anyone, regardless of skin color, can find themselves in Jack’s position. In this way, the book is also a statement on friendship, in general.
Lonnie Olliviere’s illustrations bring Merritt’s words to life, with beautiful, realistic details. These drawings also strengthen the symbolism in the story. For instance, the blue door referenced above matches the blue shirt that Tyler is wearing, on the first page. Jack and Tyler wear very compatible colors, when they first start hanging out (the shades meld well together and colors are repeated between their outfits). Significantly, the “beautiful” door’s trim is a blueish gray—a fairly close companion to the blue of Jack’s shirt.
I also think it’s absolutely brilliant that, when Tyler resolves to hold doors wide open for others, he’s wearing a shirt with a city skyline. Those skyscrapers are full of floors and those floors (we know) are full of doors. What a fantastic detail.
A Door Made for Me is an excellent book about friendship, racism and prejudice. I do think this is a good topic to address with children. Regardless of skin color, we all encounter situations where we must choose whether to behave like Jack or like Tyler, which the author talks about in the Author’s Note.
For some readers, this may be an introduction to the topics of racism; others are living it without ever reading this story. And that’s exactly why it needs to be read and discussed.