Thursday, September 3, 2009

Little Blue and Little Yellow

I'll be honest here. I have always liked Leo Lionni, but have never come across this book before. A little internet digging and I learn that Little Blue and Little Yellow has cult following, with many people claiming it as the best book of their entire childhood. The release of this 50th anniversary edition means older fans can delight brand new groups of readers with their favorite tale of color.

On the surface, this is very simple story of two color dots who are the best of friends. Little blue and little yellow live across the street from each other and play together every day. On one such day, they were so happy to see each other that the two friends hug tightly until they turn green! They play as green all day long, visiting the park, chasing their friends and getting plain worn out.
When the duo returns home, mama and papa blue do not recognize little green, nor do mama and papa yellow. Rebuffed by both color families, they cry big blue and yellow tears until there is no green left. Only then do their parents hug and kiss them. When papa blue hugs little yellow, they suddenly realize what had happened! They all hug with joy and everyone is terrifically happy again.

This is possibly the most simply illustrated book I have ever seen and yet manages to be utterly charming at the same time. The pages are composed of blobs and smears of paint against plain white (although there is one black and one red page) backgrounds. Like the paintings, the words are simple, but beautiful. The end result is a wonderful book that you and your children will most certainly fall in love with.
Leo Lionni wrote this story while on a train trip with his two grandchildren. His charges were becoming increasing animated, and Lionni realized he needed some fast, creative thinking. After finding a page in his magazine with a colorful design, he ripped the page into small disks. Voila, the story of little blue and little yellow was born. The result of that train trip is a legendary book that has stood the test of time and continues to be delightful after fifty years.

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