The Color Kittens, written by Margaret Wise Brown (of Goodnight Moon fame) and illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen, recently joined our collection of children’s books; it’s a board book version of the Little Golden Books. I vaguely remembered having read it as a child, but I don’t think I’d seen it since.

The tone is very much on the mark for children, playful yet earnest: “The buckets [of paint] had the colors written on them, but of course the kittens couldn’t read.” We’ll overlook the fact that, as non-reading kittens without opposable thumbs, they’d also not be likely to be opening and mixing cans of paint! As with many children’s books, this is a story with a purpose: it teaches children about colors. In addition to color identification, color mixing plays an important role, as these curious kittens, Brush and Hush, seek green paint: “And they wanted green paint, of course, because nearly every place they liked to go was green.” With a slightly trippy dream sequence, the story takes a turn for the odd but interesting, including a pale pink sea and dancing Easter eggs. Intrigued yet?

After the first reading, my husband didn’t like it much. He liked the dream sequence, but the final line left him dissatisfied. Endings matter.

After further readings, however, he’s come to love the story, final line and all. I have, too – and it’s mostly for the language, which leans towards the literary. Vivid imagery and a strong sense of repetition propel the tale of the mischievous kittens. My personal favorite lines follow:

“The sky was wild with sunshine.
The kittens were wild with purring and pouncing –”

The sky was wild with sunshine! They awaken to no ordinary day, and if this is the world that the Color Kittens live in, it’s one that I want to be a part of regularly. It’s now stashed near the bed for frequent bedtime reading.

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Brown, Margaret Wise. The Color Kittens. New York: Golden Books, 2009. Print.

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