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Notes from a Children's Librarian

Notes from a Children's Librarian: In Living Colour

Colour is one element in the visual arts curriculum. These texts for primary grades not only address art objectives, but also provide an opportunity to talk about similes and metaphors and making connections through emotions.

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Book Cover They Say Blue

They Say Blue, by Jillian Tamaki, is a kind of jazz riff on colour. The pictures are full of movement with multiple versions of the main character playing, dancing, swirling across the page—each colour spills into the next, associated with bold imagery. “I can't see my blood but I know it's red,” the main character says, tumbling through the seasons, transforming herself: ”I angle my my green leaves to feel the sun." Metaphors and similes abound. For black, we see the girl’s hair as gold lights up the girl's face: "My mother parts it every morning, like opening a window.” (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


Book Cover The Wind and the Trees

The Wind and the Trees, by Todd Stewart, is a conversation between two trees—one young, one old. Each turn of the page shows the same two treetops discussing the effect of the wind as the colours dramatically transform. Seasons and weather affect the hue of the sky, the foliage, and the billowy clouds. The young one grows, whilst the elder becomes barren and dies, bringing a new tree to carry on the conversation. Both life cycles and the concept of change are expressed through colour. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


Book Cover A Brush Full of Colour

A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison, by Margriet Ruurs and Katherine Gibson, is a biography of the painter through the lens of colour. He began his career depicting England's drab coal-mining region, before travelling the world. Colour crept into his paintings upon visits to India, Malaysia, and New Zealand. Later, while teaching Cree children in northern Alberta, he realized the texts of Dick and Jane had no relevance to his students so he painted little scenes in booklets for them. Rejecting classic techniques he'd learned in art school, he used Yukon colours in unique ways—a pink moose, purple suns. They were a hit. Illustrations in A Brush Full of Colour are punctuated with thoughtful questions for the reader, such as, "How are the colours similar to (his earlier works)?" (Grades 2 and up)


Book Cover Sky Colour

In Sky Color, by Peter H. Reynolds, Marisol is an artist who is asked to paint the sky in a class mural. But there is no blue. How can she paint the sky without blue? On her way home, she starts to really look at the sky and realizes its myriad of colours constantly changes. Truly inspired, she sets out to accomplish her task. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


Book Cover The Artist and Me

The Artist and Me, by Shane Peacock, illustrated by Sophie Casson, begins with a confession: "I used to do an ugly thing. I tormented someone." This someone turns out to be Van Gogh, whose “dream, he told anyone who would listen, was to tell the truth by painting pictures." The clashing bright colours in Van Gogh’s paintings look funny to the local community. The boy follows Van Gogh as he sets up his easel outside and begins to see what he sees. "The sky was blue but boiling with violet. The wheat field was brown but shimmered like gold." Like Sky Color, this book reinforces the message of seeing the true colour of things. The illustrations pop with gold, as vivid as Van Gogh's, with complementary colours vibrating on every page. An author's note gives a bit of background on Van Gogh and why the author wanted to write the story. (Kindergarten and up)


Book Cover My Blue is Happy

My Blue is Happy, by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien, is full of similes and metaphors, with each colour attached to a feeling through imagery. Students will be encouraged to make connections which may contradict common associations. The brother of the protagonist, for example, says black is scary as the reader sees large shadows on a wall. The voice goes on to say: "my black is peaceful like the still surface of a lake and the spaces between the stars,” leaving us with the message: "colours are how you see them.” (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


Book Cover Oddrey

Oddrey, by Dave Whamond, is the story of the girl who, in a sea of green apples, paints a blue one. This one isn't solely about art. Oddrey sees the world differently and tries to make it a better place, even though her uniqueness isn't always appreciated and leaves her lonely. When we see the contributions Oddrey makes to her fellow students, they’re brilliantly colourful...a playground, a tree, even an igloo! (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.