The Artist Who Painted
a Blue Horse
by Eric Carle; illus. by the author
Preschool Philomel 32 pp.
10/11 978-0-399-25713-1 $17.99
In its simplest interpretation, Carle’s book is about an artist — perhaps a child, perhaps an adult — who paints animals the “wrong” color. There is the titular blue horse, a red alligator, green lion, and even a black polar bear. Those who know Carle’s work well will recognize several familiar characters in their original colors (like the blue horse from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, rev. 11/92). The lesson here, that it’s okay to use colors outside the realm of nature, may be unnecessary in this day and age. But when Carle, as we learn in an afterword, was growing up in Germany during the Nazi regime, this mixing up of proper coloration was seen as degenerate. In particular, we learn about Franz Marc, who specialized in blue horses and whose paintings were among the contraband that a kind teacher introduced to young Eric. While the simple, direct text and large type of this book indicates a young audience, there’s no question that Carle has created this book to make a larger, more autobiographical statement. You could even call this his Miss Rumphius: a late-career mission statement.
From the January/February 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.