For this week’s “Marvelous New Picture Book Monday” I selected They Say Blue illustrated and written by Jillian Tamaki. I was immediately attracted to this new picture book due its vibrant and abstract cover. Not only is the cover itself unique but there is also no text, not even a title, on the cover further pulling the reader to open the book. This unique start to the book is indicative of the powerful effect the illustrations have in They Say Blue.
The first page of text in the book is an abstract blue background with only the line “They say blue is the color of sky.” For a younger child, this text is simple and easy to understand. For an older child or an adult this simple text and abstract yet plain background allows room for inferences. The following pages introduce the protagonist, a young Asian girl, exploring the abstractness and colors of her surroundings. Through the introduction of a character, the illustrations remain abstract and vibrant but tell a story that a young reader can understand while still leaving room for an older reader or adult to interpret.
One of the elements of this picture book that makes it so marvelous is the orientation of the illustrations on the page. The illustrations and text are positioned as a passage of time across the page, showing movement and travel. This feature enables a younger reader to follow the book without reading the text, and truly maximizes the space on the page. Another key element in this book is the use of perception. She shows how things change and can be perceived differently in different settings as well as have different uses. I think this component is particularly important for a young child. For example, they show how water can appear in so many different forms is important for providing children with complex understandings of the world around them.
Another element of the book I found excellent was the use of an Asian protagonist. Minority groups are typically underrepresented in children’s literature. However, the book does not focus on Asian values but rather uses this as a point of making this book multicultural literature. In addition, in the image of a whole class many different races are represented.
They say Blue is an excellent balance of telling a story while being informative and intriguing for children of all ages, and adults too. The vivid colors and imagery tell a story of their own and keep the reader looking at the page. In addition, the use of the full page shows a journey and the passing of time. The images flow from one page to the next and serve many purposes. For example, the strings of the girl’s hair are the same texture as the birds in the sky, showing the universality of the world. This picture book shows the complexity and abstractness of the environment around us through vivid imagery and concise text, making it a great picture book for readers of all ages.