September 27, 2016

Fishing for Complements

Today we're talking about complementary colors. Complementary colors are the two colors that sit across from each other on the color wheel: Red-Green, Blue-Orange, and Yellow-Purple. Being on opposite sides of the color wheel means that these duos complement each other the most: blue makes orange more orange, orange makes blue more blue. So when illustrators choose to illustrate a picture book using only complementary colors, it's almost always visually stunning.

Red & Green:

Greg Pizzoli's The Watermelon Seed (Disney-Hyperion Books, 2013) is a fantastic example of a red-and-green picture book. The Watermelon Seed is the story of a crocodile who loves, loves, loves watermelon. That is, until he swallows a seed one day. The book is immaculately designed, from the book case (the outside of a watermelon) and the endpapers (the inside of a watermelon) to the screen printed blocks of red and green, which make new colors when they're overlapped. 

Steve Antony uses the red and green in a slightly different way in Green Lizards vs. Red Rectangles (Hodder Children's Books, 2015). Instead of adding color to the illustrations he uses the colors more as territory markers--since green lizards and red rectangles are at war, seemingly over nothing anyone can remember, Antony is able to visually convey both sides of the war by taking up more and more space with each color. We can see territory changing hands as one color overwhelms the other and vice versa.

Blue & Orange:

Little Owl's Orange Scarf (Alfred A Knopf, 2012) by Tatyana Feeney uses the complementary colors of orange and blue to highlight parts of her illustrations. In the story, Little Owl's mom makes him a scarf, but he hates it: it's itchy, it's way too long, and it's orange. Feeney literally highlights parts of her illustrations so that they pop out--the orange scarf stands out pretty starkly against the bright white background with splashes of blue. (PS, Wendy from Homegrown Reader got me this book, and I couldn't be more grateful!!)

Annika Dunklee's and Matthew Forsythe's My Name Is Elizabeth! (Kids Can Press, 2011) is the story of Elizabeth Alfreda Roxanne Carmelita Bluebell Jones. Elizabeth, not Liz. Forsythe uses the blue-and-orange coloring to convey depth, overlapping them occasionally to convey shadow. And most of the orange is in the foreground to highlight Elizabeth's dominance over everything around her (except what people call her!).

Yellow & Purple:

While I've found more than a few red-and-green and blue-and-orange books, I've only ever found one yellow-and-purple, Kazuno Kohara's The Midnight Library (Roaring Brook Press, 2014). By default it's a special book since it's one-of-a-kind, but using yellow and purple also serves a much larger purpose: to show light and dark. The book takes place at night, when a library comes alive with all sorts of creatures. Purple proves perfect for highlighting parts of the illustrations because it's the darker color of the two: the shadows highlight in the midnight library. Makes sense, right?

So if you know of any yellow-and-purple picture books, definitely send the title my way! Would love to add to the collection.

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