2018 Picture Books–They Say Blue

It is 2019. Ta-da! For most of this year Jean Matthew Hall will review some of the amazing picture books published in 2018.

They Say Blue was published by Abrams Books for Young Readers in 2018.

I’m stuck!

I’m feeling reluctant to give my truthful review of the book They Say Blue by author/illustrator Jillian Tamaki. The artwork is lovely, wistful, provocative.

But I can’t make real sense of the text.

TheySayBluepageI read reviews by Library Journal and others, plus the jacket copy, but I can’t find a theme or a logical sequence or an arc of any kind. I see a little girl musing on the colors around her in the first half of the book. That I can follow and understand. As a child I wondered what IS blue? What makes something blue or orange and why are things the colors they are.

But, then, the book takes a couple of sharp curves and I wind up in a ditch. The same child who wonders about the colors around her is suddenly depressed and glum and dismisses the golden color of grain.

On the next spread she doesn’t like winter, then perks up at a purple flower—hope that change is coming!

On the next spread she “becomes” a tree. The next several spreads are devoted to the changing seasons.

Then we are in her black bedroom while she sleeps, her black hair flung across her pillow. Then, we see her mother waking her, plaiting her hair while they wonder what the crows outside are thinking.

I think I’m a little bit of a philosopher. I wonder. I contemplate. I ponder. I search for answers.

But I’m afraid I simply get lost in They Say Blue. It poses a lot of possibly-related questions.

But it doesn’t hint at any answers.

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