Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: BLUE: A HISTORY OF THE COLOR AS DEEP AS THE SEA AND AS WIDE AS THE SKY by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Jenny Arch
Brew-Hammond begins this a global history of the color blue with an observation and a question: “The color blue is all around us. Have you ever wondered where it comes from?” She continues, riddle-like, “It’s in the sky, but you can’t touch it. It’s in the sea, but when you cup it, it disappears.” BLUE traces the ways that people have sought, created, and used the color across the world and throughout history, from ground lapis lazuli as makeup or paint, to snails and indigo dyes. Blue is “more than a color. It [is] a feeling”; Brew-Hammond connects the painful history of those who worked to dig lapis lazuli or grow indigo – often enslaved people – to the common expression of feeling “blue” when we’re sad, or the style of music called “the blues,” which has its origins in African spirituals.
Daniel Minter’s gorgeous illustrations (Caldecott contender?) done in acrylic wash on watercolor paper showcase every shade of the titular color: in sky, water, cloth, jewelry, and religious uses. Even the endpapers are beautiful, emulating the “stunning pattern[s]” of Nigerian indigo fabric. The people depicted are from various times and places, including ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Indonesia, Mexico, Israel, and West Africa.
This valuable history of a beautiful color with a “complicated history” comes with rich back matter, including an author’s note, “a few blue facts,” and selected sources (both online and in print). Its unique presentation of information could make it a Newbery contender.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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