Subscribe to The Horn Book

Review of The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse

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.

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. My 18 month old daughter loves all of Eric Carle’s other books and given the awards this book has won, I thought it would be a winner, too. Unfortunately, my daughter isn’t that interested in this book. Simple text “I am a good artist” with beautiful pictures – but I think for the younger toddler you need a book that is not only visually stimulating, but something that allows them to interact more – lift a flap or touch and feel books – may be more appropriate?

    Have a nice day,

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.


  1. […] The Horn Book reviews Eric Carle’s The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse Hello – it looks like this is your first time here – you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed or click here to find out more about me. Thanks for visiting […]

Speak Your Mind