Eric Carle is the king of color in children's picture books. Starting with his illustrations for Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? in 1967 and continuing in his many inventive picture books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle knows the secrets of entertaining and teaching young children with strong, bold pictures.
His latest book, Hello, Red Fox, intrigues us from our first look at the bright green fox on the cover. Has Carle made a mistake? Did someone mix up his paints? Has he succumbed to color blindness? Not on your life! Carle combines a simple storyline and large uncluttered pictures to demonstrate a remarkable function of the human eye the ability to see the image of an object in one color after looking at it in the complementary or opposite color. For example, if you view a green fox for about ten seconds, then quickly look at the opposite blank page, an image of a red fox appears.
Three- to five-year-olds will like the story of Little Frog inviting his friends to his birthday party. As they arrive, he welcomes them by a name (purple butterfly, orange cat, green snake, blue fish, etc.) that looks wrong, at least at first glance, and Mama Frog is quick to correct her child. Little Frog's reply, "Oh, Mama, you have not looked long enough," encourages little ones to do just that. Then when they look at the blank opposite page, voila! Finally, Mama Frog catches on and joins the game with some opposites of her own.
Carle was born in the U.
S. in 1929, but his family returned to Germany in 1935, where he spent the years of World War II in a world of dull grays and browns. He returned to the U.
S. in 1951, and worked as a graphic designer and commercial artist. The idea for Hello, Red Fox came from the discovery of another German, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (that's right, the same poet, novelist, and philosopher Goethe), who experienced this visual phenomenon with color in the late 1700s. After 20 years of research on color, Goethe determined that there are three primary colors and that each color has an opposite or complementary color. Thus, the color wheel originated.
Although Carle tells the story of Goethe's discovery briefly on the copyright page, the book is really for children. Never mind that many adults will be entranced and may do a little more research themselves to discover "simultaneous contrast after-image." Yes, indeedy, that Eric Carle is a sly old fox.
Reviewed by Etta Wilson.