They Say Blue
Abrams Books for Young Readers
In her debut picture book, Jillian Tamaki explores colours, the seasons and aspects of the natural world through the eyes of a child narrator.
As the book opens the girl sits under a blue sky acknowledging that, as she’s been told, the sea from a distance looks blue, but goes on to observe as she plunges in, ‘But when I hold the water in my hands, it’s as clear as glass.’
She also ponders upon things she hasn’t seen. ‘Is a blue whale blue?’ she asks, though she accepts that an egg yolk is orange without having to crack the shell, and that her blood is red.
Her contemplations take her away from the sea itself to a field: this she likens to a ‘golden ocean’ upon which she imagines sailing in a boat she herself has built.
Blown by the wind, storm clouds gather and reality again sets in: it’s cold and rain starts to fall; but within the grey is something new and beautiful – a small purple flower.
The whole thing then takes something of a surreal turn as the girl sheds her thick layers and morphs into a tree …
in which form she continues with a series of seasonal observations before falling fast asleep.
The book concludes with an affectionate parting of her hair by the child’s mother as, with the curtains open, together they view the soaring black crows ‘Tiny inkblots on a sea of sky’ that is very far from blue,
and wonder what the birds might be thinking.
Visually beautiful (Tamaki renders largely impressionistic acrylic and photoshop paintings), thought provoking and perfectly in tune with the way young children think, wonder, imagine and respond, this is a book likely to inspire further musings, discussion and creativity on the part of its audience.