Ages Birth to 3
By Ellen Stoll Walsh
This lighthearted, simple story is also a lesson in primary colors. Three white mice are able to conceal themselves against a sheet of white paper and become invisible to a sleek, gray cat. But when the inquisitive mice discover three paint jars—one red, one yellow and one blue—they nearly blow their cover!
Thinking the jars they’ve discovered are for painting themselves, the three adventurous mice jump right in.
Their paint drips onto the paper creating bright puddles of color, inspiring the mice to play.
As each mouse—boldly adorned in a primary hue—dances, hops or jumps in the puddles, new and wonderful colors are created.
The illustrations, done in cut-paper collage, are set against a white background and clearly differentiate each vivid color. The clean and unembellished design is incredibly pleasing; Walsh manages to make a seemingly basic array of primary and secondary colors seem like a celebration.
Each lesson in color mixing is given two full spreads, allowing children time to process how the new colors are made.
After all the playing in the paint, the mice are feeling sticky and give themselves a bath in the cat’s water bowl.
Readers are given a helpful reminder on how to create the new colors when the newly cleaned mice decide to continue painting. This time they use the paper instead of themselves and, learning from their past experience, they leave a little bit of white so that they may continue hiding from the cat.
Walsh’s masterful technique at introducing a basic concept is quite likely to prompt little ones to explore color and art, painting and drawing.
Jennifer Lavonier has lived in Jersey City for over fifteen years and has worked in the children’s book world for nearly twenty years. She was the manager and buyer of Books of Wonder, Manhattan’s premiere children’s bookstore, and the assistant to Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are. You can find more of her children’s book reviews on her website, TurtleAndRobot.com.