September 10, 2013

Showing her true colors

By Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien
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A word of warning to parents: Before you and your young one peruse the pages of My Blue Is Happy, equip yourself with crayons and paper. You’ll be besieged by requests for both well before the story’s end. In this delightfully original picture book, author Jessica Young takes a fresh look at familiar colors, using them as the foundation for a story that celebrates individuality and the pleasures of living in a world informed by multiple perspectives.

Beginning with blue, the astute little brown-haired girl who serves as the story’s narrator reflects on a rainbow’s worth of hues, only to find that her impressions of them differ sharply from those of her pals, parents and siblings. Her mom’s orthodox interpretation of the color yellow, for instance—“cheery . . . like the summer sun”—just doesn’t ring true. “My yellow is worried like a wilting flower and a butterfly caught in a net,” the girl says.

Although her ideas go against the grain, she has grit enough to stick by them. Pink, according to her best friend, is pretty, like the tutus they wear in ballet class. But the hue has unhappy connotations for our heroine, bringing to mind bug bites and stepped-on gum. Black, for her brother, takes the form of fanged shadows on a wall. Yet the girl doesn’t find the color scary—on the contrary! “My black,” she insists, “is peaceful like the still surface of a lake and the spaces between the stars.”

One by one, the spunky narrator upends the conventional views of colors (this is a girl who knows her own mind!), overturning tired clichés and offering untraditional takes on each shade. The upshot of this smart little story: We all have singular perspectives. It’s okay to be unique—to have ideas and opinions that deviate from the norm.

Young brings a poetic sensibility to this imaginative tale. She has a knack for coming up with inventive metaphors. Her brief, verse-like sentences are enlivened by Catia Chien’s expressive acrylic illustrations. Together, they’ve created a book that encourages kids to think independently and creatively. Remember: Keep those crayons handy!

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My Blue Is Happy

My Blue Is Happy

By Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien
ISBN 9780763651251

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