In a Blue Roomby Published 01 Apr 2008
|In a Blue Room.pdf|
|Publisher||HMH Books for Young Readers|
Alice is wide, wide awake. Mama brings flowers, tea, a quilt, even lullaby bells to help her sleep. But none of these things are blue, and Alice can sleep only in a blue room. Yet when the light goes out, a bit of magic is stirred up. Pale blue moonlight swirls into her bedroom window. Then the night swirls out, around the moon and into the universe, leaving Alice fast alseep in a most celestial blue room.
In a Blue Room Reviews
Nothing about this book quite coheres. The concept -- a little girl can only fall asleep if everything in her room is blue -- is cute, but the execution is kinda lame. Why is blue so important to the girl? The illustrations don't help either -- nothing in the girl's room is blue, which might have helped to give blue some importance, perhaps indicating that it's her favorite color.
The girl's mother brings her various things to help her fall asleep -- a brown cup of tea, some fragrant white and purple flowers, jingling golden bells. The little girl complains mildly about the colors being incorrect, but nothing ever becomes such a big deal that there seems to be a point.
Also, I couldn't help but think that all the things the mother brings in are going to keep the child awake -- bells, tea, smelly flowers! The kid's senses are going to be too jacked up for sleep!
Finally the moon comes out, washing the entire room in a blue light, and the little girl gets her blue room. It's a nice idea, but getting there just didn't make much sense.
Caldecott contender 2008. A girl explains that she can only sleep when her room is blue.
You know that feeling you have when you're a fan of something (could be an artist, television show, songwriter, you name it) and they just don't seem to be getting enough attention? And on the one hand that makes you a little happy because now you have a secret special somebody or something that's yours and yours alone. And on the other hand you love this thing or person and you want it to get acknowledged. You want other people to see what you see and to appreciate what you appreciate. Well, I've been like that for years with illustrator Tricia Tusa. I watched her illustrate How to Make a Night and Fred Stays With Me!. I observed her clever paperback covers for Eleanor Estes' Moffat series. I bit my nails and waited for her to be paired with just the right author at just the right time. Someone who could give her a meaty text that perfectly complemented her charm. Enter first time picture book author Jim Averbeck. Pair his gentle bedtime tones to Tusa's images and what you're left with is the best bedtime tale I've read in many years.
Alice is wide-awake and bouncing on the bed when her mother enters. After informing her mom that the only way she'll be able to fall asleep is in a blue room (and the yellow walls make THAT pretty unlikely) her patient mother brings in different items one by one. There are lilacs and lilywhites for scent. There is tea in a cup for taste, a silky soft quilt for touch, and lullaby bells for sound. Finally, just as Alice begins to drift off to sleep, her mother turns out the light. The light of the moon comes in "bathing everything in its pale blue light." Everything now the same color, Alice sleeps soundly in her room turned blue at last.
I am sure, I am certain, I am left without so much as a droplet of doubt that there is a child in this country who will pick up this book, look at the cover, and announce (not without a note of self-satisfaction), "That room's not blue!" Well done, child. You are correct to some extent. The repeated assurance that Alice is in a blue room will confuse some people initially, but I think our kids are smart enough to realize that the blue is coming, even if it isn't THERE at all times. Mr. Averbeck has also somehow hit upon the perfect number of words per page. There are never too many and there are never too few. Told entirely in the present tense, it melds colors, the five senses, and repetition (the ultimate comfort to a child) in a rhythmic series. You feel safe in Averbeck's world.
Sometimes at my library someone will come in and ask for a book of the five senses for their kids. I'll hand them the usual Aliki My Five Senses fare, but just for kicks it's sometimes fun to also give them a picture book that drills each sense home. Averbeck's book does this, and I suspect it may also inspire some parents to start similar bedtime routines. Maybe they'll start bringing in flowers for bedtime scents, or maybe a jazz CD for the sounds (the Blues?). There is something remarkably peaceful about this book too. I like to think that maybe it has something to do with the quality of the blue Tusa chose for the ending. It's that blue/gray color you get on certain moonlit evenings. With the white white stars and the single moon shedding its light on the front of the house, the combination of these images with Averbeck's soothing words is near hypnotic. This is the kind of book children dwell on and remember, long after they've forgotten. If you know what I mean.
Ms. Tusa's illustrations are rendered here in ink, watercolor, and gouache. She does quite a lot with shadows and light, two aspects of her paintings that I've never really noticed before. The bright lamplight manages to convey in its starkness the dark outside. And as always, her characters are key. When Alice's Mama sits on the bed beside her daughter, you can see her weight there. Her physical presence. I also enjoyed the little details in the book, like the fact that the stars and moons on Alice's blanket slip out of the room when she falls asleep and into the dark night sky. Finally, those last shots of Alice's house perched on the top of the earth are beautifully haunting.
What's the market like these days for a good bedtime story? Probably pretty good. As a child, I always enjoyed those books that took place at night. Stories like Sam and the Firefly that really knew how to play around with evening light. In terms of gifts, I've already given a copy of this book away to a friend of mine who had a baby shower. There isn't a person alive who won't love what Averbeck and Tusa have done here. I hope Harcourt will pair the two of them together again someday so that we can see more books like this one on our shelves. Lovely in every sense of the word.
Alice is unable to sleep because her room isn't fully blue. Her mother tries to help, bringing in flowers with a sweet scent, a steaming cup of tea, a snuggly warm quilt, and a string of bells to ring in the breeze. None of the items are blue, but they all help to greet the blue of the evening. Finally, with the light off, Alice is in her blue filled room and all of the gentle motherly touches are tinted to a blue too.
This is a gentle bedtime book that is soothing, loving and beautiful. Tusa's art is whimsical and magical. I love the details of all of the items in the bedroom, all adding together to warmth and home. The warm yellow of the walls, will get children thinking immediately about how in the world this room is going to become blue. The detail of each item being a different non-blue color is also a great part of the story. Averbeck's text has a flow that adds to the soothing gentleness of the entire book. Until we are all washed away like Alice with the tide of deep blue.
One of the most evocative and charming bedtime tales I have seen in recent time, this book is a great bedtime read aloud. The pictures are large enough to use it with a group, so this should become one of your standards for bedtime pajama story times at the library too.
I read this to a group of preschoolers today and they were wide-eyed, interested and enthralled from beginning to end. The book is ideal for parent and child, any caregiver and child, and school and library readings.
The spare text, full of sensory details, depicts a child avoiding bedtime because blue is her favorite color and she can only sleep in a blue room. It starts lively with Alice jumping on her bed "wide-awake past bedtime" then gradually lulls with words and illustrations as Alice's mother brings her flowers, tea, lullaby bells, and a cozy quilt. Alice becomes more and more drowsy. The words and illustrations seem infused with patience and love, as well as as bit of magic when Alice's desire for a blue room comes true.
In a Blue Room is not just perfect for right-before-bed readings. When I read it to our preschoolers it was nowhere near nap-time let alone bedtime. The delightful surprise twist of an ending also fit perfectly with our recent preschool themes of Moon, Earth and Space, and even our upcoming celebration of Earth Day. After hearing the story our preschoolers rushed to the art table and were inspired to draw pictures of beautiful blue rooms! It's hard to beat Tricia Tusa's illustrations--but watch out, Tricia--you've got some 3 to 5-year-old artistic competition at my preschool, because Jim Averbeck's new book inspires all.