Colors for Zena
By Monica Wellington
Monica Wellington, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York, knows a thing or two about appreciating and identifying colors. And she has created a colorful picture book friend named Zena, to help young readers do the same, in Colors for Zena.
For those of a certain age, you may remember the color blocked squares in a chart on the wall at school, with the identifying word writ large above or below the splash of color.
Ms. Wellington’s Zena is on an adventure in the real world, capturing color visually in all she sees around her on a rambling roadside tour.
Starting at home with the “absence of color,” in a black and white house and clad in the same tones of clothing, Zena is out the door with her pooch to find colors, as she calls:
Where did all the colors go?
Ms. Wellington has picked things that kids might come in contact with in their everyday world. My one quarrel might be not the ubiquitous yellow school bus that all kids will easily recognize, but that not all small hamlets might have yellow taxis tooling around town.
But, the bright yellow orb of a sun and the yellow flowers blooming away in The Sunny Flower Shop more than make up for this!
Red fire trucks race down the road with lights flashing, and an orange maned lion joins Zena on her romp as she insists on more colors.
It’s a clever introduction for young readers that teaches the blending of colors to make new ones via Zena’s link up with the lion:
“I am yellow and red mixed together,”
roars the lion.
Blue skies and streams cross paths with Zena and her ever changing hat color as she comes in contact with the color palette including green that croaks via a jumping frog that ribbits:
I am blue and green mixed together,
croaks the frog.
Ms, Wellington has fashioned a walk with Zena for young readers that introduces the basic colors, then blends of the original red, yellow and blue.
My favorite blend is the purple dragon that announces:
“I am a red and blue mixed together,”
rumbles the dragon.
Zena’s rainbow colored hat atop her head, greets her new friends at a paint party making a “beautiful picture with all the colors in the world.”
Anything is possible in Zena’s color-filled world. And, snuggled at the end of the day with the collaborative and newly painted picture on her bedroom wall, she is joined for a colorful cuddle by all her painter partners: her own black and white dog, green frog, orange lion, and purple dragon.
Zena even gets to wear a crown to bed fashioned of all the colors she’s met and painted.
If you have a young one at home that craves color and wants a picture tutorial on the same, a walk with “Colors for Zena” may just enliven both your worlds the next time the two of you are out for a stroll.
*And speaking of color, please check out this song called, “Think Pink,” sung by a force of nature and pure talent, named Kay Thompson. It’s from the Fred Astaire/Audrey Hepburn musical called “Funny Face.”
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