What an exciting experience was reading aloud LITTLE BLUE AND LITTLE YELLOW by Leo Lionni last Saturday at the magnificent Castello di Masnago in Varese! Although most of the children already knew the book and the story, all of them were ready and excited to listen again about Little Blue and Little Yellow.
Little Blue and Little Yellow, Lionni's first children's book, began as a desperate effort to calm his two lively grandchildren on an hour long train ride from Manhattan to Greenwich, in Connecticut. It was 1959, and Leo Lionni was taking the two to his suburban home. Unable to quiet them, he took a copy of Life magazine from his briefcase and turned to a page dominated by blue, yellow and green. He tore the paper into small circles, then improvised a story that captured their attention.
His story was about two round blobs of colour that share friendship, true friendship, in their neighbourhood. Named for their hues, Little Blue and Little Yellow embrace one day and their colours combine to make green, becoming Little Green. ''The children were transfixed,'' the author recalled in his memoir, ''Between Worlds'' (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
''And I noticed that the passengers who were sitting within hearing distance had put down their papers and were listening, too”.
In the same way, while I was reading the book with the children, I could see eyes wide shut and smiling mouths following each page, one after the other, participating in the magic game of colours and shapes, happy to be there with their mums and dads, just like Little Blue and Little Yellow.
A really shared story time, naming colours and hues, watching attentively and curious the experiments with water and light, but most of all playing amused at the “fingers colour battles”! Ready, steady … go! I still can see those children who were deeply enjoying their dirty fingers getting green, Little Green.
Little Blue and Little Yellow is a wonderful picture book each child should read once in a lifetime: friendship is depicted in all its nuances: identity, differences, sharing, freedom and multiculturalism.