Sky Color, written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds

In this era when art and other creative endeavors have long been cut from most public schools (at least the one my kids go to) Peter H Reynolds is a true gift. This guy is all about creativity and creative expression. In fact, his mission statement ends in this way, "If my art and stories can help inspire other to do the same, I'll feel my life had meaning." Having had a math teacher in 7th grade who was attuned to Reynold's artistic and storytelling skills (he had Peter create a comic book to teach math concepts, then encouraged him to turn it into an animated film) Reynolds himself wants to help kids who are "off the path." With Sky Color, he has created a trilogy (or "creatrilogy") of picture books that do just that.

In The Dot, Vashti is frustrated by her art assignment, sure she is no artist. When she makes an angry jab at her the blank page, her teacher asks her to sign it and Vashti arrives at class the next day to see her dot in a fancy gold frame. Sure she can make a better dot than that, one more worthy of the fancy frame, Vashti opens her never-before-used paint box and begins painting dots. She even paints a dot by NOT painting a dot. By the end of the book, at the school art show, she finds herself inspiring a boy who says he cannot even draw a straight line. In ish, Ramon, who has been inspired by Vashti from The Dot,  has his passion for drawing shaken when his older brother Leon leans over his shoulder one day while he is drawing a vase of flowers and says, "What's that?" Seeing his drawings with a critical eye now, Ramon tries to draw but ends up crumpling his work and throwing it away. However, his litter sister Marisol has been taking his rejects and hanging them on her wall. When he insists that the drawing doesn't look like a vase of flowers, she says it looks "vase-ish." Ramon pauses, his perspective shifting again. Inspired once again, Ramon begins to create endless "ish" drawings, art that begins to inspire his writing, which is "poem-ish." ish ends with Ramon  inspired by nature and, instead of drawing or writing, he simply pauses to experience the moment. These books are not text heavy and Reynold's illustration style is filled with breezy energy, making these books and ideas even more amazing. Reynolds tackles some huge abstract ideas and assumptions and presents them in a deceptively simple manner.

With Sky Color, we see Marisol, Ramon's little sister, with a story and a creative path of her own. Marisol is passionate artist, expressing herself through her art, through gifts of art supplies and by painting posters of ideas she believed in. When her class is give the job of painting a mural for the library Marisol says she will paint the sky. However, an inspection of the paint box finds that there is no blue paint. "How am I going to make the sky without blue paint?" Marisol asks. The bell rings, the day is over, but Marisol's brain is working, observing, seeing the sky in all its variations. The next day she knows just how to paint the sky without any blue paint. Reynolds dedicates this book to Aldo Servino who, "took the blue paint away from me and helped me paint - and think - in sky color." With his creatrilogy, Reynolds is teaching kids (and adults) to see the world in a new way and, most importantly,  let it inspire you to creativity.

Source: Review Copy

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