Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky

by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond (Author) Daniel Minter (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Discover a world of creativity and tradition in this fascinating picture book that explores the history and cultural significance of the color blue. From a critically acclaimed author and an award-winning illustrator comes a vivid, gorgeous book for readers of all ages.


For centuries, blue powders and dyes were some of the most sought-after materials in the world. Ancient Afghan painters ground mass quantities of sapphire rocks to use for their paints, while snails were harvested in Eurasia for the tiny amounts of blue that their bodies would release.

And then there was indigo, which was so valuable that American plantations grew it as a cash crop on the backs of African slaves. It wasn't until 1905, when Adolf von Baeyer created a chemical blue dye, that blue could be used for anything and everything--most notably that uniform of workers everywhere, blue jeans.

With stunning illustrations by Caldecott Honor Artist Daniel Minter, this vibrant and fascinating picture book follows one color's journey through time and across the world, as it becomes the blue we know today.

Select format:
$17.09 $18.99

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Stunning and informative—and as profoundly rich as the color blue.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

In this entrancing metered narrative, Brew-Hammond traces the origins of the color blue--including beliefs around the hue, methods of production and efforts "to make a blue that wasn't so/ difficult or cruel to produce," and even resulting idioms. Lilting free verse acknowledges the human pain and labor that went into procuring sources of blue over time, while highlighting the significance the color has held in art, fashion, and culture worldwide. Caldecott Honoree Minter contributes dimensional spreads, rendered in lush layers of acrylic wash that augment the text with carefully balanced abstract images, patterns, and realistic figures, as well as differing shades of the titular color. A vibrant historical picture book that will leave readers curious about other colors. Back matter includes an author's note. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 1-4--"The color blue is all around us. Have you ever wondered where it comes from?" Thus begins a global history of blue: where it is found in nature, the meaning people ascribe to it, the ways people have produced it (lapis lazuli, snails, indigo, chemicals), and the feelings it represents, including, but not limited to, "the blues." Gorgeous illustrations done in acrylic wash on watercolor paper showcase every shade found in the sky, water, cloth, jewelry, and in religious uses. The people depicted are from various times and places, including ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Indonesia, Mexico, Israel, and West Africa. Back matter includes an author's note, additional facts, and selected sources. VERDICT This history of a beautiful color with a "complicated history" is valuable on its own, and has potential to be used in English, social studies, and art classes.--Jenny Arch

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Sumptuous art that never stops surprising. —NPR 

★ Brew-Hammond's graceful prose and fluid organization, coupled with Minter's emotive illustrations, set synapses firing. —The Bulletin, starred review
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of Powder Necklace, which Publishers Weekly called a winning debut. She was a 2019 Edward Albee Foundation Fellow, a 2018 Pa Gya! Literary Festival Guest Author, a 2018 Ake Arts and Book Festival Guest Author, a 2018 Hobart Festival of Women Writers Guest Author, a 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, a 2016 Hedgbrook Writer-in-Residence, a 2015 Rhode Island Writers Colony Writer-in-Residence, and in both 2015 and 2014, she was shortlisted for a Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. In April 2015, she was the opening speaker at TEDxAccra. Every month, Brew-Hammond co-leads a monthly writing fellowship at Manhattan's Center for Faith and Work.

Daniel Minter is a fine artist and illustrator. His paintings, carvings, block prints and sculptures have been exhibited at galleries and museums both nationally and internationally. He has illustrated numerous books for children, and is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor and Caldecott Honor. He lives in Portland, Maine with his family.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
February 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JNF006040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Art | History
JNF038000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | General
JNF013020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Concepts | Colors
Library of Congress categories
Psychological aspects
Social aspects

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!