What is your child's book teaching them?

"Mouse Paint" by Ellen Stoll Walsh


Learning Through Experimentation

The child’s story Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a story any child who likes colors, animals and painting will find entertaining. This story also delivers the lesson of primary colors and what happens when there color mix. This book has also won the REDBOOK Children’s Picturebook Award. The pictures in this book are brightly colored, and one-dimensional. In this story, the pictures alone could tell the story without the words and can successfully communicate the baseline of the lesson; learning new things threw experimentation.

For starters, the cover is of three white mice with paint brushes painting the three primary colors and is out lined by a black boarder. This cover features the all of the primary colors and white and black, white is the absence of all colors and black is the presence of all colors. This catches the child’s eyes and draws them in leading them to question why mice have paint brushes and they open the book and continue in the adventure.

The book starts with the white mice on a white back ground with a dark gray or black cat looking at them with a look of concentration on his face trying to see the mice that are camouflaged by the white paper background they stand on. Instead of running away from the cat the mice stay on the white paper background to see what will happen, can the cat see them or will they successfully trick the cat. The white paper background proves to be their safe-zone. Unable to find the mice, the cat disappears from the pictures for a while.

In one picture the mice find three jars of paint; red, yellow, and blue. One mouse, more of a leader type pose, is pointing to the jars of paint and appears to want to approach them. He is closer to the jars while the other two mice hang back clinging to each other apprehensively. In this picture you see how the mice can have different personalities like a leader or more cautious and that it’s ok to try new things. In this scenario the leader mouse is experimenting with the leadership role to see if he can convince his fellow mice to join him.

Following the leader mouse, they climb into the jars coloring themselves. Each mouse is a different color, one is red, one is yellow and one is blue. The jars are evenly spaced apart and uniform in size. The back ground is still white out lined by black. This can relate to how children learn, by experimentation. The mice are answering the question “what will happen if I climb into the jar of paint?” children learn by experimentation and thus a child can relate to the reasoning of the mice.

When the mice climb out of the jars of paint a different color than when they went in, the child gets to see the results of the experiment. The mice now on the white back ground are very visible and appear to be checking each other out noticing the color differences. This can portray to the child that differences in appearance is common and under the difference (in this instance, color) we are all the same (in this instance, white).

Then they notice the puddles of paint, every child loves to jump in puddles to see what happens, thus using learning by experimentation again. These mice do the same, only mixing different colors to see what would happen. In the pictures you see the puddles get swirly with the contrasting color and then the ending color. The mice’s feet and bottom half are the resulting color and this stays with them for some time. This shows the child what colors can do. When you mix red and blue you get purple, yellow and red you get orange, yellow and blue you get green and so on. Never does it show mixing gives you white or black. This teaches the child the basics of experimenting with colors and invites the child to do so.

Towards the end the mice take a bath in the cat bowl. This is both ironic and educational. Ironic because it’s the cat’s dish, the very animal trying to eat them. This can teach the child, if old enough to understand it, that it’s ok to take chances and stand up for yourself. It’s educational because the child gets to see the mice as all white again and understand that something’s are not permanent and can be changed. Only by experimenting can a child learn certain things. You can tell a child something until you are blue in the face but they may not fully understand or retain it until experiencing it themselves.

In the end the mice paint different parts of the paper the different colors they discovered. The pictures depict the combining of the necessary colors the get the desired results, reinforcing the color combinations. However, unable to fully leave their safe-zone, the white paper background, they leave some of the paper white. This teaches the child that no matter how much experimenting you do leave a small safe-zone for you to retreat to.

The very last page is of the white mice on the white paper background and the cat tail dragging by them. Symbolizing that the cat just walked by them and didn’t even see them, again proving that their white safe-zone is indeed fool proof.

This book features all the colors of the rainbow and teaches the child how to get the colors in-between. The pictures use contrasting colors to draw the eyes in and throughout the whole book the inside of the mice’s ears stay pink, allowing something other than the back ground to stay consistent. The words are not necessary for this book they just add substance for the reader if they feel they need a story to tell the child and cannot come up with one on their own. There is a bit of encouragement for leadership and a little bit about teaching a child its okay to be different. The big lesson in the pictures is encouraging the child to experiment with things to see what will happen, learning from experimentation.

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Comments 1 comment

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cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

I've always loved this story. My children just came home from preschool last week talking about this story. They were studying colors and had read this story. My daughter asked me if I knew what yellow mixed with blue made. It is a great story for kids learning about colors. Nice job.

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