Seeing the World in Color
March 23, 2013 § 3 Comments
“It’s bud season! It’s bud season!” chanted my children earlier this week, after some long-awaited warm sunshine had beckoned us into the backyard. Thankfully, they were referring not to the beer (although my son’s soccer team does call themselves the Silver Bullets), but rather to the discovery of tiny little green bursts on the ends of our hydrangea bushes and crape myrtles. Since this is the first spring in our new house, our backyard is full of surprises, including yellow daffodils and purple crocuses and little red berries, all of which the children were delighted to point out to me as they raced back and forth across the lawn.
This springtime exuberance is exactly why I love Ashley Wolff’s Baby Bear Sees Blue (Ages 1-4), about a baby bear venturing forth from his den to discover the colors of the world. “Who is warming me, Mama?” asks Baby Bear. “That is the sun,” Mama says, as Baby Bear steps into a pool of brilliant yellow; “Baby Bear sees yellow.” And so begins a series of introductions to different colors, from the blue of the jays to the red of the strawberries to the grey of an approaching storm cloud. For months now, I have been trying (and failing) to teach my two year old her colors; at two and a half, she knows the names of all the colors and loves to exclaim “that’s purple!” or “that’s red!” for things that are, in fact, green or blue. I’m not obsessing about this, having drunk the Montessori Kool-Aid that she’ll learn on her own time (either that or someone will eventually tell me she’s color blind). But I figured it couldn’t hurt to start reading her books about colors, a rich topic in children’s literature (see my complete list of favorites at the end of this post).
Consequently, Emily and I are entranced with Baby Bear Sees Blue. For starters, there’s the child-centric way in which Baby Bear approaches the world, convinced that everything from birds to butterflies exists for the sole purpose of entertaining him. Secondly, there’s the mother and baby dynamic, which Emily is keenly aware of on every page, especially when the mother is not pictured. “Where is Baby Bear’s mommy?” she will ask when she can’t readily spot her; and I answer, “She’s there, she’s just off the page.” “She’s there? She’s off the page?” she’ll parrot back to me, and I like to think she’s making a parallel to her own separation experiences (like kissing me goodbye during her two mornings a week at preschool and learning to trust that I will return).
But for all the book’s wonder and charm, it’s the artistic choices that make Baby Bear Sees Blue an exceptional tool to introduce color to children. I have always loved wood-block illustrations for the classic charm they lend a picture book (This Little Chick being a long-time favorite and an excellent way to teach animal sounds at that). Here, Wolff has applied linoleum blocks in black and then hand colored them with watercolors. The result is a stunning juxtaposition of hard outlines exploding with soft, vibrant color. There’s even a glorious rainbow that follows the brief rain shower in the book.
But here’s the best part. The other day, after finishing up a quick shower of my own, I went hunting through the house to find Emily. I discovered her on the floor in her bedroom, surrounded by books, each one open to reveal the endpapers just inside the covers. Expanses of solid colors were everywhere, and Emily was running her hand over each one in turn: “This is yellow!” “This is blue!” “This is orange!” I quietly observed until I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer: “Honey! You know your colors!” She turned, saw me in the doorway, and smiled triumphantly. Baby Girl had finally seen her colors. (All I had to do was leave the room.)
Other Favorites About Color:
Butterfly Butterfly: A Book of Colors, by Petr Horacek (Ages 1-3)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle (Ages 1-3)
Red is a Dragon: A Book of Colors, by Roseanne Thong (Ages 3-6)
A Color of His Own, by Leo Lionni (Ages 3-7)
A World of Food: Discover Magical Lands Made of Things You Can Eat, by Carl Werner (Ages 3-7)
Little Blue and Little Yellow, by Leo Lionni (4-8)
P.S. Don’t stop reading books about color just because your child knows his colors! My five year old has lately been loving Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s simple but breathtaking masterpiece, Green (Ages 3-6), which is a wonderful way to talk about the different shades of colors and the creative labels that can be applied to them.