I happened to come across this marvelous new picture book in Barnes and Noble and was captivated by the beautiful illustrations and contemplative, yet simplistic nature of the words. They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki’s first picture book. Tamaki previously won a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for her graphic novel, This One Summer. While I’ve never read her graphic novels, I would definitely like to read and see more of her work after reading this picture book.
They Say Blue follows a young girl as she contemplates the colors around her and the changing of seasons. The book starts with the girl saying, “They say the sky is blue. Which is true today!” as she continues to contemplate things that are blue, such as the water and a blue whale. Tamaki’s simple words capture the wonder of the child and what she sees and cannot see and knows to be true. The illustrations add to the contemplative nature of the words and I love how the image below depicts a whale tail as the girl contemplates the color of a whale.
The girl’s thoughts of color lead her into thoughts of seasons and I especially love the transformative illustration of the girl into a tree in the page spread below.
While the girl still narrates the story, the seasons are explored from the perspective of a tree and at the end of the book the narrator transitions back into the girl waking up in the morning and looking out the window with her mother. Tamaki’s illustrations capture her words well, especially in the page spread below.
The whimsical and contemplative nature of the book could lead to wonderful discussions with children about color and seasons and what we can and cannot see. It also asks readers to question what we know to be true. While “They say blue is the color of the sky,” and the book begins with a blue sky. The final page depicts a red, orange, pink, yellow, purple sky, which leaves the reader contemplating.