a list of…five conspicuously colorful tales

Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss


Really.  What is there to say?  If your child does not know Sam-I-Am…if the rhythmic sway of “not in a box, not with a fox…not in a house, not with a mouse” does not bring a familiar smile to her face…if he has never wondered what green eggs and ham actually taste like…you have got some work to do!


This book has become such a part of our culture.  You can…



…symbolize it





…crochet it




…play it




…sing it





But first you’ve got to read it 🙂



Red is Best, by Kathy Stinson, with art by Robin Baird Lewis

So, red is my favorite color, which makes this book a particular favorite.

This charming little girl just loves red, but her mom plum does not get it.  In the book, she gives many examples of how this plays out.  For instance, Mom thinks white stockings are the proper choice when they match a pretty blue-and-white dress.  She just does not understand that red stockings make you jump higher!  Also, red cups make the juice taste better, red barrettes make your hair laugh, and red paint puts singing in your head!

Soooo true!  Red really does all those things, and this little pixie already has that happily  figured out.

Lewis’ fantastic, minimal illustrations zoom us up close to the star of the show and zing the red in all the right places.  The little girl’s sturdy shape reminds me a bit of Ezra Jack Keats’ work.  This book holds celebrated status in our household.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Lilly is an exuberant little mouse, who sports cherry-red cowgirl boots, and who love-love-loves school!  Loves the pointy pencils, the squeaky chalk, and the clatter of her brave boots on the shiny hallway tiles.  She especially, especially loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger!

One day Lilly comes to school wearing not only those snazzy red cowgirl boots, but some lime green movie-star sunglasses AND…whoa!…a brand new purple plastic purse that plays a tune when opened!  Lilly breathlessly awaits an opportunity to show her new purse off to her friends, but Mr. Slinger’s lesson plans get in her way.  Finally, Lilly just cannot stand it.  In a loud whisper, she announces her purse-news to the class right in the middle of lesson time.

Hmm.  This does not go down well with Mr. Slinger.  And Mr. Slinger’s consequence does not go down well with Lilly.  Lilly grumps about the rest of the day, treating Mr. Slinger abominably.  When Mr. Slinger responds, in the end, with kindness, Lilly is horrified at her actions toward her beloved teacher.   How will she set things right?

This delightful story is hilarious and warm and honest and energetic.  Lilly is a vivid character who experiences a problem many of us can relate to; Mr. Slinger is the person we all want for a friend — understanding and kind, even when we are not so nice.  Kevin Henkes’ tutti-frutti colored illustrations of enthusiastic Lilly and equally swingin’ Mr. Slinger zing and sing throughout the pages.

The Big Orange Splot, written and illustrated by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

Since I was a child of the 60s, I’ve grown up singing about the houses made out of ticky tacky.  Even Malvina Reynolds’ song, however, did not bemoan the Beige-Only developments that spill across suburbia today.  “There’s a pink one and a green one and a blue one and a yellow one,” she sings.  These outbursts of color, however, are apparently banned from many uniformly-creamy cul-de-sacs I see along the freeways.

Happily, Daniel Pinkwater’s book picks up where Malvina leaves off.  In this book, mustachioed Mr. Plumbean lives on a tidy street where all the houses are safely just the same.  Trouble arises, though, in the form of a seagull, who flies over Mr. Plumbean’s house carrying a can of bright orange paint, which happens to drop — splat! — on Plumbean’s house.  All the neighbors sympathize with his troubles, but expect he will quickly repaint his house in order to blend respectably in. 

That orange splot, however, has worked some sort of mischief in Mr. Plumbean’s mind!  His fascination with color and whimsy begins to simply explode until his house sports crazy painted stripes and vivacious clock towers, exotic jungle landscaping and midnight lemonade parties.   Yikes!

The neighbors do not like it one tiddly bit.  But Mr. Plumbean reasons, “My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”  It looks like we’re in for a show down.  What do you think will happen?

I love this book.  I love the celebration of individual taste and expression and I love Pinkwater’s completely over-the-top spin.  His magic markers definitely all got a work out in these shockingly bright pictures, too, which your children will adore.

A Blue So Blue, written and illustrated by Jean-François Dumont

This is the story of a search for blue.

A little boy, with the soul of an artist, dreams one night of blue.  A perfect blue.  A blue that’s dark and bright.  Warm and cool.  Always just right.

That blue of his dreams is not in his paint box however.  So, with a notebook and paintbrush in hand, the boy sets off to find the perfect blue.  He searches in an art museum, but it is not there.  He rushes off to the sun-swept sea…but it isn’t there either.  Around the world he travels, yet each time he gathers a swish of blue with his paintbrush, he is disappointed.

Finally, after talking to a blue-robed Tuareg in the Sahara, the boy sets out on one last trek…and there, at last, he finds the blue he has been searching for.  A blue that’s tender and strong.    The perfect blue.  You’ll have to read the book to find out where it was.

Translated from the French, this is an imaginative, quietly- fantastic story that appeals to childlike wonder as well as raises our powers of observation of all the gorgeous colors that surround us.  Winner of the 2004 award for best illustrated children’s book in France.

Here are Amazon links for all this kaleidoscopic cleverness!

Green Eggs and Ham (I Can Read It All by Myself Beginner Books)
Red is Best
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
The Big Orange Splot
A Blue So Blue