DotIshSky ColorAuthor/Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds     Publisher: Candlewick Press        Pages: unpaged

Title: The Dot                                    Title: Ish                                              Title: Sky Color
ISBN: 9780763619619                     ISBN: 978076362344                       ISBN: 9780763623456
Date: c2003.                                       Date: c2004.                                       Date: c2012.

Because it’s a series of picture books and they are all somewhat commulative, I thought I’d post these together. In the first, we see Vashti frustrated by her lack of talent until she is encouraged by her art teacher to “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” It takes her on a journey of dots, and she uses that technique to encourage another little boy to draw. In the second, we see what I assume is that same little boy, Ramon, grown up just slightly and dealing with his brother’s teasing that his artwork isn’t good enough. With help from his little sister, he learns that there’s nothing wrong with his drawings not looking “right” but instead looking “ish”. In the third, just published book, Marisol (Ramon’s sister, which we know by the name and the hair-do) is part of a group painting a mural at school, and doesn’t have the blue she needs to do the job. Marisol learns the impact color can have on a piece of artwork, how to think outside the box and to observe the world around her. Through her interaction with a classmate, I feel like Reynolds leaves an open ending, so if he ever wanted to add to the series he could.

When you look at them together, you notice a gradual increase in color as you progress from the first to the third book. Besides Vashti’s drawings, the only color we have is a circle of color around the character that seems to reflect her mood, from pensive blue to angry red to more inspired colors of green, pink, and yellow. Ish features a more thoroughly colored background, although most are still limited to only one or two colors. Sky Color has the most color of all three, with one two page spread featuring the protagonist dreaming in a sea of color. This is also the first time we’ve seen the character colored, even if it is just on the cover and in that one dream sequence.

Not only do the books build on the amount of color, but they also build on the lessons they teach and the drawing styles they portray. I’m not a painter, so if I get these wrong please feel free to let me know and I’ll alter accordingly. With The Dot, there’s an obvious emphasis on abstraction, minimalism, and just plain trying something new. More literally, it makes me think of pointilism, where pictures are made of nothing but dots of color. Ish reminds me of abstract paintings, where subjects are painted in a very “ish” way, similar to the works of Picasso. The paintings don’t have to be perfect representations or copies in order to be called art. Finally, Sky Color has me thinking of impressionistic works like Monet, where they swirled colors together in the sky to add depth and fluidity and the passage of time. Marisol encourages kids to think outside the box, because a sky doesn’t have to be blue, and the grass doesn’t have to be green.

While the stories themselves are somewhat slight, the messages are very clear that art can take many shapes, forms, and colors. I think these would all be good starting points for very young children interested in the arts.