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  • Writer's pictureSharon Fujimoto-Johnson

A Spot of Yellow: Three Picture Books

This was going to be a post about love, but in choosing three picture books from my home library for this post, I found myself taking a lovely detour through rainy streets, corners of Beijing, and the recesses of my heart. The color yellow threads through these three books, evoking light, joy, and growth. Perhaps this is still a post about love.

My Heart by Corinna Luyken

The color yellow participates in the storytelling throughout this book in varying intensity and scale: sometimes in tiny splashes, sometimes vibrant washes, and on some spreads not at all. In her sparse, contemplative text and stunning artwork, Corinna Luyken captures the complex waxing and waning, brokenness and healing, and growth of the heart. This book nudged its way deep into my heart. This is a book equally empowering for adults and children.

Yellow Umbrella by Jae Soo Liu, Music by Dong Il Sheen

I found this gorgeous wordless picture book many years ago, before I even had children of my own, and had to add it to my library. (Yes, I started collecting children’s books before I became a mother.) One can listen to music and rain sounds on the accompanying CD while “reading,” making this an immersive experience. An aerial view of the titular yellow umbrella opens this book, and on each subsequent spread, more and more umbrellas of various colors join the yellow umbrella on a stroll through rain-soaked streets until there is a colorful jumble of umbrellas pressed against each other. On the final spread, our view shifts, and we recognize that this is a group of children headed to school together. Even though we never see their faces or know their stories, by the end of the story we feel as though we will miss these characters as they leave us behind.

Two Bicycles in Beijing by Teresa Robeson and Illustrated by Junyi Wu

This is a story of friendship between two bicycles–one red and one yellow–and also a lovely introduction to the city of Beijing. When the bicycles, Lunzi and Huangche, are bought separately by a pair of strangers, Lunzi goes on a search for Huangche. Each time there is a flash of yellow, Lunzi wonders if it is Huangche, the yellow bicycle. Through Lunzi’s journey through Beijing, Teresa Robeson and Junyi Wu brilliantly guide us through a tour of landmarks, including Nanaguan Park, the National Art Museum, the Forbidden City, as well as splashes of yellow in cultural details like chrysanthemums, kites, martial arts. When Lunzi finds Huangche, it is a reunion of the two bicycles, as well as a delightful surprise meeting of a boy and a girl, “side by side, old friends and new.”

In all three books, the color yellow achieves something that words alone could not do. And in this month celebrating love, I found myself thinking of love beyond the pink and red associated with Valentine’s Day. Love is love is love, in all the ways that phrase implies. But love is also friendship. Love is also a gift deep within ourselves and a gift we share with the community around us.


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