June 2001

Coloring outside the lines: focus focus

By Marjorie Priceman
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Can you read this review in 20 seconds without blinking? If so, you would be the perfect victim to fall prey to Marjorie Priceman's optical illusion, It's Me, Marva! A Story About Color &and Optical Illusions. And who better to razzle dazzle us with funky patterns, color mixing and eyeball trickery? Priceman Caldecott Honor Award winner for Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin overloads our eye cones rather unapologetically. Kids everywhere have seen her striking color palette and animated brush strokes on Reading Rainbow. Her artwork is undeniably energetic, and it's everywhere.

It's Me, Marva! (like the mixing and meshing of the hues in the illustrations) stirs in a humorous story about a wacky inventor, simply trying to get through her fumbling and stumbling day. Marva is truly accident-prone, which sets the perfect stage for radical hair colors and a wonderful little lesson for kids about why sorting laundry into like colors is ever so important. Throughout the story, Priceman seamlessly pauses in just the right places with activities that teach about color phenomena: contrasting, mixing, patterns and shapes. As Marva dashes from one disaster to the next, the reader learns more and more about optical effects, which is good, because the happy ending to this story is told with an after-image (staring at an object without blinking, then looking at a totally blank page). No kidding. It really works. And if the reader wants to know more about how we perceive images, Priceman further explains in very simple language why our perception of something isn't always what we would predict.

For example, stare at this review for 20 seconds without blinking. Now look up at the ceiling. What do you see? If you've mastered the art of illusion from It's Me, Marva!, you should see a subliminal ÔThank you' for reading Coloring Outside the Lines. No? Well, you must have blinked.

This little corner is a salute to those overachieving writers, artists and publishers who rebel against the bookmaking norm (whatever that is) and insist on creating a one-of-a-kind. 

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