Young, Jessica. My Blue Is Happy. Illustrated by Catia Chien.
Literature is magical because it is open to interpretation. Stories that reach readers in small ways such as a strategically placed familiar name, setting, or symbol, often come across as the most profound, and open doorways to new understandings within the mind. It is a special joy when a reader happens across a literary work that fits perfectly with one's life and symbolic interpretation of the world. Reflective readers may find deeper self-understanding by considering their own beliefs regarding the symbolic meaning of color.
My Blue Is Happy presents a key piece of the power inherent within literature to a young audience in an accessible, yet not over simplified, picture book. A young girl narrates first person her opinions on the symbolic meaning of colors. She compares her thoughts with those of her most beloved family members in a way that is completely accepting of differences in opinions and past life experiences. Not only does this book take a unique angle on discussing diversity from a child's point of view, it does it from the perspective of my own cultural background, one I am sometimes embarrassed to admit to international people is white, middle class American. I feel this book has made an important step for allowing us to accept simple, yet often pervasive, differences in opinion.
The book reads slightly like a list, as the narrator goes through each color, explains her thoughts on the color, and discusses a difference of opinion she has happened across regarding the emotional evocation of the color. It begins and ends with some very good reasons why the color blue brings happiness to her mind rather than the cliché sadness her sister thinks of as she strums a lonely song on her guitar. The dialogue feels entirely natural and accepting, and the illustrations depict wisely selected examples that bring natural color meanings to mind for each character.
Chien chose versatile acrylic paints and varied perspectives to express texture and depth in the illustrations. She used dry techniques used to express spraying water, and splattering intended to subtly suggest rain. The general softness of the lines and dry blending brings the colorful emotions forward with sincerity and skill. Tastefully sparse outlining slightly stylized the characters and reminds readers the book is intended for a young audience. Perhaps differences between people on simple matters ought not to be taken with overly vivid responses. The maintained respect for perspective and depth assure readers that while interpretations of symbolic meaning may be pervasive for an individual, it is entirely essential to take time to reflect and remember that these are only interpretations. On a literal level we are only seeing light reflected back to us as colors. Thus the book effectively and quietly breaks down the fourth wall for literary reviewers while perfectly holding a consistent narrative for children, reaching them with deeply with profound truth.