The Little Red Book

Illustration by Consuelo Mura

The color red has its literary roots. It’s blood and drama and passion. Red is the first color that Jonas sees in Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.” It’s no accident that Little Red Riding Hood wears scarlet or that Robbie Burns’s love is “like a red, red rose.”

Red shows up in literature in another funny way. I collect electronic images of books in art. Copies of illustrations, paintings and prints that feature books in some way.  And I began to notice a lot of red books in art (* see my reader’s note below).  Not just as a random spot of color, but as a color that makes a statement, suggests its own story:

You can escape from the everyday…

Agata Raczynska

Agata Raczynska

into an imagined passion

Illustration by Phil Jones

Jonathan Burton

Jonathan Burton

Or maybe it’s a real world passion

Jennifer Dionisio

Jennifer Dionisio

Or  forbidden fruit

Jean F. Martin

Jean F. Martin

 

Illustration by Toni Demuro

 

Alessandro Gottardo

Alessandro Gottardo

Or perhaps red, is after all,  just a mystery

Jennifer Dionisio

Jennifer Dionisio

My favorite literary use of red is the William Carlos William poem, The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

So much depends on the red book, so much is suggested that is dark and forbidden, hinting at hidden depths beneath the most sedate appearances.

Illustration by Nakamura Daizaburo

 

And isn’t that what reading is all about–that gateway into other selves. In this case, our red selves. Our read selves.

 

*Readers note: This is a reprint of a post I did in July 2014, but with some additional red book images.

6 responses to “The Little Red Book

  1. what a wonderful post!

  2. An oldie, but a goodie. 🙂 Thanks, Laura!

  3. Gretchen Hansen

    Thank you for your red visions, Bonnie. I must have missed your 2014 post! I’m glad you reprinted it. I, too, felt stoped in my reading by red images, especially in children’s books, so I, also, posted about being “Well red,” on my website! It is the first color I learned to read, and the color of my favorite dress at three years-old.

  4. How fun, Gretchen. I’ll check it out! I think red was my first read word, too!

  5. What a quirky, lovely and somehow very cheering post!

  6. Hey, I forgot that red is also joy. 🙂

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