May Day, Immigrants and Multiculturalism

The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora

May 1st, often called May Day. It’s a celebration of Spring. It’s also a day of political protests. In many countries, it is a national holiday.

In 2006, the United States saw widespread political action on May Day, centering on the subject of immigration reform. Various groups and communities, under the heading of “A Day Without Immigrants,” held rallies, strikes, and consumer boycotts to support the rights of those working and living in the United States, and to protest a bill that would deport many illegal immigrants.

The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora is a wonderful children’s book that combines a story about immigrants in the United States and May Day. While the book is about multiculturalism, it is during a May Day Celebration that young main character finally understands her mother’s feelings of being different and that being different is okay.

A contrast between a little girl’s home and the outside world is established. One of the differences is her name. At home, she is Estelita, but at school, her name is Stella. Another difference is the language she speaks. “My brothers and I speak English outside the house and Spanish inside the house. My father says, ‘Hija, this house is a piece of Mexico.’” Their house is also “a quiet house” where their father likes to read and running and shouting is for outside. Even the pictures provide contrast. The illustrations of her home are in muted tones, like the brown clothes that her mother wears. Outside the home are the brighter tones of reds, pinks, yellows, purples, and greens.

Spanish words are scattered throughout, just like a bilingual child may speak. Because Estelita/Stella tells the story, the use of Spanish words in the English text adds to Estelita’s cultural background.

Stella loves colorful clothing and fits in well at her English school, unlike her shy, quiet mother who wears dull colors like brown, no makeup, and speaks only Spanish. Although Stella loves her mother, she is ashamed of her. Stella wishes her mother were more like the other mothers with their makeup and short dresses. She wishes her mother could speak English, too.

When Stella finds out that she gets to dress like a tulip for the upcoming May Day celebration, she decides that she wants to be a rainbow tulip. On the day of the celebration, Stella’s mother goes with her to school to watch the festivities. Stella nervously looks around at all the other girls in their dresses of one color, blues, pinks, and yellows. Stella is the only rainbow tulip. Although uncomfortable as people point at her, commenting on her dress, Stella remembers every step of the dance. When she sees her mother smile, she knows that her mother is proud of her. Later, her mother tells her it is hard to be different. Instead of being ashamed of her mother, Stella now understands and asks to know more about her grandparents.

The Rainbow Tulip


  1. terrific

  2. Children's books can be like great poetry. Sounds like this is a perfect example of that. Love the connection to May Day. Sounds like a great book. Multicultural issues also an important topic for nannies.

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