Monday, September 1, 2008

A lizard who lets his freak flag fly...

A Color of His Own
by Leo Lionni
1975, Random House

2000, Knopf board edition

When Rosie was younger, her passion for turning pages grew so fierce we dared bring nothing but board books into our home.

Sadly, much of the storytelling offered in sturdy editions is distinctly lacking -- suitable for chewing, yes, but unlikely to spark a lifelong appetite for literature.

So I was thrilled to find this infant-proof version of a Leo Lionni classic.

Born in Holland, Lionni was well-known as an artist and graphic designer before he created his first children's book, at age 49. He went on to write dozens of books, four of them Caldecott Honor winners. He's known for his bold collages and poignant storylines.

I have yet to meet a Lionni book I don't love, but I'm particularly fond of "A Color of His Own."

Its big, simple pictures appeal to even the youngest audiences, and spare sentences gave parents a fighting chance to keep pace when chubby fingers long to flip ahead. Still, the story's gentle lessons on acceptance and belonging allow it to hold up through years of reading.

And now that Rosie can chime in, I realized that Lionni's work has been slyly teaching her colors all along:

One day a chameleon
who was sitting

on a tiger's tail

said to himself,

"If I remain on a leaf,

I shall be green forever,

and so I too will have
a color of my own."

With this thought he cheerfully climbed

onto the greenest leaf.

But in autumn the leaf turned yellow
-- and so did the chameleon...


Kate said...

I'm a fellow media person and bookworm at home with a two-year-old. Just wanted to let you know that your blog has become a resource for me--today I plundered the library for a bunch of your recommendations. Thanks!

Sara Steffens said...

I'm so glad! I love the long shelf life of children's books.
And your note reminds me we have a big pile of stuff due back this weekend...

Victoria said...

We just added this book into our bedtime rotation. It's lovely, if biologically inaccurate. I can't help but also enjoy the subtext, intended or not, of the rainbow-hued chameleon finding lifelong companionship with a same-sex partner. I'm sure it will add nuance to the story, perhaps as early as next June's parade.