Undoing the Blue: Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman
AT LAST THE PICTURE IS ALMOST FINISHED.
THE CHICKS ARE WHITE, THEIR COOP IS IS BROWN...
AND THIS DAY IS PERFECT FOR PAINTING THE BARN.
The scene is set on the title page of Deborah Freedman's Blue Chicken (Viking, 2011). An unfinished drawing is spread across the two pages--white chicks in front of a brown coop, and an as yet uncolorized barn with perfect draftsmanlike lines stands on the left, a timid calf peeping out from one side of the wide door.
On the drawing table are a ruler, pencil, paintbrushes--and two pots of paint, red and blue.
BUT WAIT! DOES ONE OF THE CHICKENS WANT TO HELP?
And here is where this bucolic illustration (and story) fly the coop. A little chick escapes from the environs of the brown coop and wanders up to try to select a brush from the blue paint pot.
The paint pot tips, it splashes, and suddenly the tidy scene is flooded with blue--the chick, his fellow chickens, yellow duckies, the orange cat, and all in one messy, splish splash of blue. Like a primordial flood, the blue threatens to obliterate the whole drawing in one wash of watercolor.
But then the now blue chick spots a third jar--this one with a mysterious clear liquid. Can he save the day by painting over the blue with this paint? Miraculously it restores everything to its original state--except the sky, which remains the perfect shade of blue for a clear sunny sky...
ON A DAY THAT IS PERFECT...
FOR PAINTING THE BARN.
And through the studio window the chickens studiously watch a woman draw up her ladder and begin to paint the real barn outside the window a bright red.
Several modern picture book creators have begun to play with the concept of the physical book--some, such as Lane Smith in his It's a Book or Mo Willems in his We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) tease the mind of the reader with the creative expansion of the limitations of static characters stuck on the two-dimensional page, drawing the reader into the story as unseen characters themselves. Others, such as Chris Van Allsburg, in, for example, his Bad Day at Riverbend and David Wiesner in his Art & Max, play with the very conceit of the limitations of illustrations on the plane surface of the page. In Blue Chicken Freedman makes the static illustration the source of the story in a fusing of media and word which will engage the reader over and over.
"Breathtakingly beautiful meta-illustrations will draw many eyes to this tale of a curious chicken who spills some paint... Delicate and durable, visually sophisticated yet friendly: simply exquisite," - says Kirkus Reviews, in a rare starred review.