Little Blue and Little Yellow, Leo Lionni

The original edition of Little Blue and Little Yellow (McDowell Obolensky, New York, 1959) was Leo Lionni’s (1910 -1999) first children’s book. The original idea for it came to him on a long train ride to New York with his restless grandchildren, Pippo and Annie. To keep them amused, he took a color page from his “Life” magazine and ripped it into pieces. He used the scraps to tell the two children a story. They liked the tale so much that Lionni continued to work on it back home, eventually developing it into a picture book for children. Written in very simple language, the small, square illustrated book tells the story of two colorful abstract forms, Little Blue and Little Yellow. The two shapes, i.e., friends, always play together. One day, Little Blue cannot find Little Yellow. When they finally meet, they hug so tightly that they both become green, later changing back again to their original blue and yellow. The story is both a playful introduction to color theory and a loving tale of friendship and the relationship between parents and their children.

Leo Lionni was born in Amsterdam in 1910. After spending his teen age years in Italy, he emigrated to the United States in 1939, where he worked as a graphic designer. In 1962 he returned to Italy, where he was active as an independent artist. Lionni created numerous successful and extremely popular picture books, as well as the endearing character, Frederick the Mouse. He wrote and/or illustrated a as many as 30 picture books, many of which have been published around the globe, earning him multiple awards and generations of readers. Leo Lionni once said, “Of all the things I have done in my life, few of them have given me as much profound satisfaction as my children’s books.” And this passion is evident in all the books he wrote and illustrated.

Leo Lionni
Little Blue and Little Yellow
New York: Knopf Books, 2009
ISBN: 9780375860133
English edition
48 pages
Ages: 4 – 6 years