Little Blue and Little Yellow

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by Leo Lionni. Picture Book. 48 pages. Grades PreK-8.
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Review

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Leo Lionni devised this story while on a train trip with his grandchildren. Usually he drew stories for them as he told the stories but this time he had no drawing materials. Tearing circles of color from a magazine, he improvised this story and later wrote it down for the rest of us.

Illustrated with splotches of color, the story has several layers of meaning from the simple story of friendship through the exploration of color to the feelings of racial prejudice. We are shown Little Blue as a ragged circle of blue on the white page. Later we meet his mother and father, his many friends, but especially Little Yellow who lives across the street with Mama Yellow and Papa Yellow. Using only these simple shapes, Lionni shows the children at school and at play. Then, when Little Blue and Little Yellow are separated for a bit only to find each other at last, they are so joyful that they hug each other and turn green. As a single green shape, they play and then go, first to Little Blue’s house and then to Little Yellow’s only to be rejected and unrecognized. They cry little blue and yellow tears until they are all tears and then, punningly, they "pull themselves together and go home" as separate shapes again.

Follow up activities can include color mixing with paint, of course, but it’s even more effective done with circles of color on the overhead projector.

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