Rainbow Joe and Me

By Kirkus Reviews

Strom debuts with a determinedly exuberant book about a cool young African-American artist, Eloise, whose fondness for bold colors and boldly outlined shapes is happily echoed in the full-bleed acrylic spreads. Mama tells Eloise not to bother Joe when the two talk on the front steps, but it’s hard for Eloise to contain her eagerness to tell her elderly friend about her paintings. Far from bothered, the blind man she calls Rainbow Joe for reasons apparent only at book’s end loves to listen; he approves of her imagination. Rainbow Joe claims to make the colors he sees in his head. ‘I know how to make them sing,’ he says early on. ‘One of these days I’m going to show you.’ Eloise’s knowledge of the color wheel, which she shares incrementally with readers, tells her that vision is needed to mix colors. Even Mama says the only color a blind person can achieve is muddy gray. It isn’t until Joe unpacks his saxophone and plays colors that Mama and Eloise can see them. This exploration of sensory differences and similarities is enlightening and enchanting.

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