Yesterday the color of Lake Michigan spanning outward from the shoreline between Charlevoix and Petoskey was stunning. The combination of bright sunlight, clarity of air and cloudless sky created a shade of blue hard to name. It was worthy of stopping the car, watching the waves and soaking up the beauty.
I wondered at the time how to duplicate the precise quality of the lake without the benefit of a camera. Even then, would a photograph be the same? It reminded me of my first watercolor set; of adding liquid to those solid squares of color to make paint and new hues. As a concept book for younger readers Herve Tullet's new title, Mix it Up! (Handprint Books, an imprint of Chronicle Books LLC) pictures the excitement of making vibrant art.
IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN.
ARE YOU READY?
Reading the second sentence you will notice the previously blank page now has a small gray blob of paint in the center. On the fourth page you are asked to, ever so lightly, tap the dot and observe. Now it looks as if finger-made spots of blue, yellow and red (and isn't that pink?) are racing toward the tiny gray dot.
There don't seem to be enough so we are urged to tap and tap some more. Wow! Immediately there are lots of dots; red dots, blue dots, yellow dots, green dots, purple dots, orange dots and pink dots. The gray dot has plenty of company. Are we done? Oh...no...we are just getting started.
We are requested to place our hand on top of all those colors. With a page turn we see the outline of a hand nearly absent of any red, blue, yellow, green, purple, orange or pink.
YES! YOU'VE GOT THE MAGIC TOUCH!
Using our fingers we smear primary colors with one another making green, purple and orange. We slide our book one way and then another, we press and rub, forming blended swirls, drips, splashes and smudges of secondary shades. Is the fun over? Oh...no...we are questioned to see what we've learned.
What will white do? What will black do? What will they do together? Our hands, at the invitation of the narrator find answers and...the enchantment of blending color.
This book is like holding an art lesson in your hands. Herve Tullet is speaking to each individual reader in the simplest manner while encouraging participation. In presenting the role of primary and secondary colors and using white and black to lesson or intensify each, we learn by doing. You know it's not real but it feels real. Anticipation builds with each suggestion and the following results. Here is a small sample of a conversation. The first phrase is beneath a smudge of red, yellow and blue. The second is under a large irregular dot on the following page. On the third page the original three dots are pictured with no text. A green dot with a little blue and a little yellow peeking out from the edges is above the final questioned word.
WITH ONE FINGER TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF THE BLUE...
AND TOUCH THE YELLOW. RUB IT...GENTLY...
Of course paint was used to render all the illustrations in this book. The high sheen to the paper gives realistic texture to every single color. It makes following the narrator's instructions even more fun. You expect to feel paint on the page and on your fingers. Both the opening and closing endpapers are rows of thumbprint colors. We begin without a title page, verso or dedication. Herve Tullet knows his audience; he understands their eagerness to make art.
Each illustration is exactly as you would expect it to be if you had made it yourself within the last few seconds. Each time I turned a page I could not help but think how much fun Tullet must have had making this book. The shaken pages have marbleized color. The tilted pages have color runs. Squished pages have splatters radiantly spreading to the edges. This illustrator is truly gifted at enhancing simple ideas to foster learning.
I think one of my favorite illustrations is toward the beginning. The outline of the hand among all the colored thumbprints truly visualizes the power of creation. It announces the start of a whole new world.
It's a good thing heavier paper is used for the pages in Mix it Up! written and illustrated by Herve Tullet. Readers, young and old alike, are going to be tapping, rubbing, smudging, tilting, shaking, and squishing to their hearts' content and then starting all over to do it again. Keep paints and extra copies at the ready. And like Herve Tullet states at the end
Please visit Herve Tullet's website by following the link embedded in his name. Here is an earlier interview about his work and the title, Doodle Cook, at Design Mom. The publisher has made an activity kit. Enjoy the book trailer below.