Where Have All The Colors Gone? Arctic White by Danna Smith
WHEN YOU LIVE IN THE ARCTIC ALL WINTER, EVERYTHING IS A SHADE OF WHITE.
THE BLUE WHITE OF THE TUNDRA,
THE YELLOW-WHITE OF THE POLAR BEAR,
THE SILVER-WHITE OF THE ARCTIC FOX.
Arctic days are as dark as the night. The only light, from the stars and the moon, is white, too.
True, the girl's parka is brown, her grandfather's sled is brown, and so is her dog. But in the winter darkness, they hardly count as color.
SOMETIMES WHEN YOU WISH ON A STAR FOR MORE COLOR, YOU ONLY GET GRAY,
AND GRAY IS A SHADE OF WHITE.
But one day there is a sort of hum in the air. Grandfather promises something golden, the color of hope. The girl is intrigued as that night he leads the whole family across the tundra to a special spot. Everyone seems quietly excited, and the girl wonders what Grandfather means by his promise. He tells her mysteriously
"YOU NEED THE DARK TO SEE..."
And with first a flash of gold, and then orange and red, then blue and green, the aurora borealis fills the sky with more color than she has ever seen, with just enough light to see the pleased twinkle in her grandfather's eyes.
Danna Smith's Arctic White (Harper, 2015) is set in the far north, but its theme is universal. All peoples who know the long black nights of winter experience some yearning for the light and colors of summer. We gather to share winter festivals, decorating with colored lights that remind us that, as Keats put it, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Author Smith gives few details about her Arctic family, but like all of us, they share hope, warmth, and pleasure at the experience of the warmth and colors of the Arctic sky.
Smith's lean and lyrical lines draw us into the simple story, and the artwork of Lee White adds much to the text, lovely in its stark, straight lines and many shades of white, punctuated by the joyous swirls of color from the sky at the ending. With a theme of longing and light that all ages will feel, this book is also wonderful for classroom units on color to show the power of white, which is, after all, the true color of light, and that the blackest of nights can make colors more dazzling.