The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Sky Color

Sky Color
Written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Published in 2012 by Candlewick Press
ISBN # 978-0763623456

Grades K and up

Book Review

When it comes to artistic expression, the sky’s the limit – or so it seems for one young girl assigned to paint the sky for her class mural. Fans of Reynolds’ picture books may remember Marisol, the little sister who provides the most genuine and enthusiastic support for her brother’s foray into art, from his earlier picture book Ish. In Ish, Marisol talks the talk to encourage her brother not to give up on his artistic goals, but in Sky Color, she must walk the walk as well. Known at school and in her community as “an artist through and through,” Marisol is temporarily stymied when she can’t find any blue paint for her assignment. We then follow Marisol’s journey to discover a solution. With each subsequent page spread, Marisol observes a kaleidoscopic skyscape gloriously illustrated with pen, ink, watercolor, gouache, and tea. As in Ish and The Dot, author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds again follows and celebrates the creative process, with Marisol’s story completing his “Creatrilogy” series. An inspiring text for launching content area units for art, science, and language arts, as well as a sweet little read-aloud for any time, Sky Color proves that the creative arts has an important place in all classrooms.

Teaching Ideas and Invitations

Grades K and up

  • Creating Sky Color.  Invite your class to study the sky at different points of the day and then at those same times each day for a week. It might help to have them take photos of the sky with a camera or iPad. Have students mix paints, crayons, colored pencils, clay, or any kind of artistic medium—even some of the websites listed below—to capture the different colors of the sky.
  • Peter H. Reynolds author/illustrator study. Gather a variety of picture books that Peter H. Reynolds’ has illustrated or written and illustrated. Conduct an author/illustrator study of the topics that concern him and what he says about them. Survey his illustrations, and identify his artistic style, his artistic idiosyncrasies, and favorite artistic media to use.

Grades 3 and up 

  • Skyscapes. Do a Google search for paintings of the sky, such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night ( or and Monet’s The Beach at Sainte-Adresse ( and Regatta at Sainte-Adresse ( Project these images for the class to see. What is the state of the sky in the painting? Why do you think the artist wanted to capture the sky in that way? How does the color(s) of the sky contribute to the mood of the overall painting. Invite students to select a skyscape as the inspiration for a poem or a short story, with the sky being the central focus of the writing.
  • “Why is the Sky Blue (and sometimes not)?” Use Sky Color to launch a science unit on light or the atmosphere. Pose this question to the class, and have them conduct an inquiry to answer the question. Some of the websites listed below may be useful. Once they have their answers, read Sky Color to them again and engage them in a scientific discussion of what might have been happening to make Marisol see the sky as the colors she eventually used in the class painting.
  • From Sight to Words. New York Times contributor Constance Hale challenged readers to write three sentences that “paint a realistic picture of a sky using precise and surprising nouns and adjectives”. Offer the same challenge to your students (see the original instructions at Then share with them Hale’s response to readers who submitted descriptions ( Discuss Hale’s comments with your class, and invite them to revise their sentences according to her suggestions. Pair students’ sentences with photographs or images of the sky from various websites, magazines, illustrations, and other media, and create a gallery for displaying them.
  • Creating Fresh Descriptions through Unconventional Colors. Marisol’s sky is surprising and fresh to see because she used unconventional colors to paint it. Invite your students to try describing the colors of everyday sights in an innovative way, such as what Marisol did with the sky. The key to this activity, however, is to follow Marisol’s lead and encourage students to closely study the sights around them in order to determine which colors would be fresh and surprising, but still make sense.
  • The Creative Process. An artist’s creative process is a favorite topic of author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. Along with Sky Color, read Ish and The Dot with your students. Compare and contrast the themes about creating art that Reynolds conveys across the books. Using some of the links listed below, have students research Reynolds’s own creative process. Then have them research the creative processes of some of their other favorite picture book authors and illustrators. Compare and contrast what each author and illustrator says, and then have your students try out some of the strategies they describe when attempting their next piece of creative writing or artwork.

Further Explorations

Online Resources

Peter H. Reynolds’s website

Peter H. Reynolds’s tips for sparking creativity

“Skyscapes” – a New York Times blog entry about describing the sky

Websites that explain why the sky looks blue

Colour Factory Game – a CBBC website

Color Scheme Designer – an online tool for creating color schemes

Society of Dyists and Colourists – educational activities


Carle, E. (2011). The artist who painted a horse blue. New York: Philomel

  • A vibrant homage to expressionist artist Franz Marc where nature is turned on its head with animals painted the “wrong color,” done only as Eric Carle can.

Jenkins, S. (2007). Living color. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

  • A beautiful exploration of the colors of animals by award-winning author-illustrator Steve Jenkins.

Katz, K. (2002). The colors of us. New York: Holt.

  • A book that celebrates diversity by comparing the shades of people’s skin to shades of delicious foods.

MacLachlan, P., & MacLachlan, E. (2006). Painting the wind. New York: HarperCollins.

  • A picture book about a young boy who spends the summer with the painters who visit his island home each year while searching for his own artistic inspiration.

Reynolds, P. H. (2004). Ish. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Reynolds, P. H. (2003). The dot. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

  • Along with Sky Color, these are the first and second in a series of picture books about a young child who desperately wants to become a good artist, with a surprise source of inspiration and encouragement.

Seeger, L. V. (2012). Green. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Seeger, L. V. (2008). Lemons are not red. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

  • Another fascinating concept book of colors and cutouts by the author-illustrator of Green.

Shannon, G. (2005). White is for blueberry. New York: Greenwillow Books.

  • An ingenious concept book that encourages readers to rethink the colors they see in nature.

Zalben, J. B. (2012). Mousterpiece: A mouse-sized guide to modern art. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

  • A delightful picturebook about a mouse’s discovery of modern art and the artistic inspiration she draws from them.
Grace Enriquez About Grace Enriquez

Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.