Featured Special Article about BLUE in Kirkus!


KIRKUS – Featured Special
Feeling Blue
By Julie Danielson on August 3, 2018

I’m not the first person to say this, but it bears repeating: artist Laura Vaccaro Seeger is one of the most talented creators of concept books for young children, as well as an artist who uses die-cuts in some of the most unexpected and refreshing ways. Her best example of both of these things is Green, which won her a 2013 Caldecott Honor. Coming to shelves next month is a companion book, Blue.

Green was a playful exploration of color (green, of course) and language, which took some abstract turns and delivered, to my mind, a subtle environmental message. (Seeger knows better than to preach at child readers.) At the book’s close, we saw a young boy positioning a green plant in the ground and then, on the next page, the boy as an adult next to a blooming, verdant tree: “forever green.” Readers came away from that book with a reminder that it’s up to us to keep our planet green, and Seeger made that point in a gentle, restrained, and hopeful way.

Blue is a book that Seeger could have taken in any number of directions. It differs in that it has a narrative to share, a tender, emotionally compelling story, carried largely by the illustrations of a boy and his dog. But its structure and execution is similar to Green— we as readers take a look at various creative “shades” of blue, ones imbued with emotion and a sense of play, and Seeger’s thoughtfully-placed die cuts reveal surprises at each page turn.

The book starts out with “baby blue,” and we see a toddler with a blue blanket — and a small, furry puppy sleeping next to the boy. As we turn each page, we see the boy grow, and we also see the bond deepen between the boy and the dog. Seeger attaches evocative descriptors to the blues we see — “ocean blue,” as the boy and dog play at the shore; “midnight blue” as they sleep in the dark on the boy’s bed; “quiet blue” as the boy reads to the dog, flashlight in hand, in a tent at night. Each one of these descriptors and shades of blue are connected to this emotional bond between the boy and his dog.

It is within three quickly paced spreads — perhaps Seeger is trying to spare us prolonged heartbreak — that we see the elderly dog start to tire (“old blue”) and pass away. (Wisely, Seeger sets the tone for the loss, preceded as it is by “stormy blue” and “chilly blue.”) It is here, with the grown boy hugging his dog, that Seeger puts “true blue” to use. Do you have your tissues on hand? It is a poignant, deeply felt moment of emotional weight.

Observant readers will follow throughout the book the presence of the boy’s blue blanket from toddlerhood. It becomes a kind of scarf that the dog eventually wears around his neck. When the boy as a young adult meets and falls in love with a woman with her own beloved dog, one that readers sense the grief-stricken man will welcome into his heart, he has this blue cloth tucked in his pocket. In fact, it is this bright shade of blue that is revealed via the die cut on the final page turn. His dog, though gone, will always be with him.

Seeger puts little to no distance between us, as readers, and the action of this book. It’s as if we are right there with the dog and the boy. I love being able to see the canvas itself through her textured acrylic paints. It all adds up to an intimate book, a bittersweet meditation on love and loss that ends with hope and the promise of a healing heart. Don’t miss this one.

Starred review from Horn Book

HORN BOOK - September/October 2018

Where this inventive author-illustrator explored both the palette and politics of the color green in Green (rev. 3/12), Blue finds her sneaking up on us with a story about loss, even if at first we think we are simply in for a celebration of all shades blue—“baby blue, “berry blue”—tucked into a portrait of the happy life of a boy and his dog. But as we explore blues both objective (“sky blue,” as the boy releases balloons into the air) and personal (“my blue,” where the boy and dog play tug-of-war with a towel), we slowly understand that the boy is growing, and so is the dog…“old blue.” As in Green, small die-cuts lead from each richly textured double-page spread to the next, always surprising, where the canopy of an umbrella becomes the top of a bird feeder, say, an encapsulation of the larger imaginative leaps being made from spread to spread. When was the last time a concept book made you cry?
- Roger Sutton


Starred review for BLUE from School Library Journal

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL - July 2018 (starred review)

K-Gr 3–In her companion to Green, Seeger follows the lives of a boy and his dog, Blue. Beginning with the sleeping toddler and his puppy accompanied by the words “baby blue,” the pair is shown growing up together and sharing experiences through all seasons and in all weather. Their various activities include blueberry picking, chasing butterflies, taking snowy walks, and frolicking in the ocean. An azure bandana appears on almost every page, sometimes worn by the boy and sometimes by his dog. The pictures and words will appeal to readers’ emotions, including delight, contentment, exasperation, and profound sadness when the youth is pictured holding his elderly dog for the last time. Precisely placed die-cuts lead readers to the next page and the next illustration depicting the pair’s devotion. Short, rhyming couplets consisting of two words each scan well and are skillfully conveyed by the acrylic paintings on canvas: “quiet blue/silly blue/stormy blue/chilly blue.” 

VERDICT: Though there is sorrow, it is followed by joy in this touching tribute to a heartwarming relationship that will engage readers of all ages.

- Maryann H. Owen, Oak Creek Public Library WI

Starred review for BLUE from Kirkus

KIRKUS - July 15, 2018 (starred review)

This companion to Seeger's Caldecott Honor book Green (2012) explores a fresh color's visual and metaphorical permutations. Seeger unfolds the entwined lives of a white boy and a golden Lab, from baby- and puppy-hood through a series of poignant transitions. Cleverly placed die cuts and rhymed, two-word phrases (set in ever crisp Helvetica Neue bold) anchor each double-page spread. To her many-hued blues, some thick with impasto, Seeger adds yellow, sienna, crimson, and green in scenes that transit fluidly among interiors and natural tableaux exploring the sea, a stormy night, a sun-dappled park, and more. At "baby blue," puppy and toddler sleep among blue toys, sharing a small square of blue cloth—a future neckerchief they'll trade throughout. For "berry blue," boy pulls dog and a berry basket in a red wagon. The phrase "maybe blue" perches on a blob of yellow in the child's vivid self-portrait with pet. (The dog traverses the picture, tracking yellow paint across the deep-blue ground, its die-cut paw prints mixing to make green.) At "very blue" the pair cavorts among blue butterflies, which fill the foreground in huge, delightful proximity. Later scenes depict the Lab's inevitable aging, with the boy sitting ("so blue") on a dock at sunset, his body bent in grief. Last, another transition: meeting a brown-skinned girl and her young sheepdog, the blue scrap now tucked in the teen's back pocket. Sumptuous, stunning, and heart-stirring. (Picture book. 3-7) 

Starred review for BLUE from Booklist

BOOKLIST - July 1, 2018 (starred review)

In this companion to her Caldecott Honor Book Green (2012), Seeger reflects on the many shades and emotions suggested by this pigment. “Baby blue” depicts a sleeping toddler and puppy sharing a blue blanket. A page turn reveals a slightly older preschooler and his dog collecting “berry blue” fruit. A child’s painting of a boy and dog, marred by paw prints, is captioned “maybe blue.” In later spreads, both youngster and pooch mature, sparking adventures that involve running into the waves (“ocean blue”), camping out (“quiet blue”), and a snowy walk (“chilly blue”). Eventually, of course, “old blue / true blue” passes away, leaving the teen “so blue,” until he meets a girl with her own pup, “new blue.” While story takes a prominent role in this concept book, Seeger has not neglected the artistic details that distinguished her work. The acrylic-on-canvas paintings exhibit a range of styles: from playful (“silly blue”) to contemplative (“midnight blue”) to gently combative (“my blue,” in which boy and mutt each tug at the baby blanket). As in Green, strategically placed die-cuts help to connect the spreads, previewing important features of the next illustration. A story full of heart, this works on many levels, assuring satisfying discoveries with repeated viewings. 

— Kay Weisman

Fun times at ALA 2018!

It was so much fun to debut BLUE at ALA in New Orleans. Here are some photos from the weekend...

(at the Newbery/Caldecott banquet with Emily Feinberg, Neal Porter, Jason Chin)

(at the Newbery/Caldecott banquet with Emily Feinberg, Neal Porter, Jason Chin)

(with Yuyi Morales)

(with Yuyi Morales)

(with Philip Stead)

(with Philip Stead)

(with Matthew Cordell and Shane Evans)

(with Matthew Cordell and Shane Evans)

(with Sue McCleaf Nespeca)

(with Sue McCleaf Nespeca)

Irma Black and Cook Prize Awards 2018

It was an honor to deliver the keynote speech at the Irma Black Award/Cook Prize ceremony at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City. Special thanks to Cindy Weill for organizing an incredible event, and congratulations to all the award recipients! 
(photos by Cheryl Simon)


Amazing China Trip!

Recently, I was so fortunate to have spent almost a month in China, speaking at the Pudong and Puxi American Schools in Shanghai, visiting my 21st Century/Macmillan publisher in Beijing, and appearing at the incredible Shanghai Book Festival.

At the American schools, I had an absolute blast working with the children. An extra special thank you to Kimbra Power and Beth Rohrbeck for making sure every day was a joy. As a huge added bonus, I was able to spend some extended quality time with my good friend, author Chris Crutcher.

And everyone at 21st Century/Macmillan couldn't have been nicer. Jon Yaged (President of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group), Kristin Dulaney (Executive Director of Subsidiary Rights), and I had such a wonderful time. We visited the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and had countless amazing meals. 

Here are just a few photos from this most memorable trip...


Plum Creek Festival was a Blast!

What a wonderful time was had by all at the fabulous Plum Creek Festival, in Seward, Nebraska.

It was so much fun to hang out with so many friends, including Melissa Sweet, Philip Stead, Matthew Cordell, Kadir Nelson, Brandon Mull, Christian Robinson, Tad Hills, Jenni Holm, Matthew Holm, Lauren Castillo, Henry Cole, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Joan Bauer, and the absolutely amazing Patricia MacLaughlin. 

Special thanks to Dylan Teut for making all of us feel so welcome, and for organizing this incredible event. He and his colleagues are absolutely wonderful.


ILA 2016

Great fun meeting so many librarians and teachers at ILA in Boston. Shout out, for an amazing job, to Lucy Del Priore and Katie Halata at Macmillan, and Deborah Wooten and Amy Broemmel at ILA. And an added bonus was getting to hang out with my good friends, Steve Sheinkin, Candy Fleming, and Jack Gantos. Love these guys.❤️

Uniondale School Rocks!

Had a wonderful time this week with 144 utterly well-behaved, attentive students, and the amazing Dr. Brenda Williams and her staff at the truly special new PreK school in Uniondale, New York.