Two evocative words mark Yellow Yellow’s opening page: “One day…”

This first ellipsis foreshadows more to come, as the following pages also feature minute collections of words bookended by those tempting dot-dot-dots. Eventually, these micro-phrases accumulate to establish Yellow Yellow’s first full sentence: “One day…I found….a yellow…hat.” Narrated by a child who the reader first encounters walking alone through the streets of a city, these simple words stands in direct contrast to accompanying illustrations that absolutely swarm around them.

Drawn with teeming detail in black ink (other than the sunshiny bright yellow of the hat, of course), the pictures show an urban landscape that is part familiar, part whimsical, part evidentiary of a bygone era, and part imaginative of a cityscape more elaborate and fantastical than could ever have truly existed. Strange sights abound: a large frog leaps along the sidewalk ridden by a miniature cowboy (frogboy?); a cobbler seen through a shop window repairs a giant’s shoes, two sets of massive toes visible over his shoulder; the city-dwellers’ faces are hairy and often scowling—one figure even features a hand coming out of his suit’s neck-hole, and carries his substitute head (a football wearing a mask) aloft in the palm of his hand.

Originally published in 1971, Stamaty’s illustrations of a young child walking alone through a metropolis bursting at the seams with grotesquery and populated with adults and children of varying degrees of strangeness might strike a modern adult reader as nostalgic, wishful, or even alarming. But the young finder of the yellow hat is never harmed while ambling through the city, blissfully unaware of all the sights passing by as the comically large hat slips down over their face. In fact, the yellow hat awakens a marvelous sense of joy and possibility in the child’s imagination, a sense echoed in the book’s art. Alongside a tale that is ultimately simple (the child finds and loves the yellow hat, meets its original owner and gives the hat up, and returns home to create a hand-made yellow hat), the profuse illustrations add an entrancing Where’s Waldo or I Spy dynamic.

Both seek-and-find and choose-your-own-adventure, Yellow Yellow could arguably be classified more as a picture book than graphic novel, and while not an addition essential to most collections, a strange and delicious book sure to delight readers of many ages nonetheless.

Yellow Yellow
By Frank Asch
Art by Mark Alan Stamaty
ISBN: 9781770463585
Drawn & Quarterly, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 2-6

  • Avery

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Avery is a relative newcomer to the world of comics and graphic novels who is nonetheless really excited about the medium’s capacity to enthrall, educate, and connect readers. Born and raised in the Midwestern U.S., Avery received both her undergraduate and MLS degrees from Indiana University but is now a transplant to Louisiana, where she is working as an adult services librarian and branch manager in the Tangipahoa Parish Library system. Besides reading, she’s also passionate about swimming, friendship, radical pedagogy, sewing, and trees. Her personal review blog can be found at https://aolundsmith.wixsite.com/bookcarousel.

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