A delightful read-aloud children’s book with cartoon-like illustrations, “Out of the Blue” is about a reticent, vertically challenged girl who reclaims her confidence after meeting a minuscule octopus in an aquarium.
Published by Penguin Random House, it is about Coral, a child who is intimidated about pursuing her dreams due to her insecurity. Being the tiniest in her class, she is often overlooked, leaving her feeling insignificant. While on a field trip to an aquarium, she meets Kranken, an adorabilis octopus. This cute and teeny sea creature can camouflage itself to be invisible from the environment and glow where little sunlight infiltrates.
Coral ultimately learns from Kranken that to be either “invisible” or to shine is a choice, and she has both powers. She realizes that like the tiny octopus, every creature can be comfortable being different because they have their own space in the ecosystem.
For introverted children
The story comes close to the experience of New York-based Filipina author Nic Yulo, who was introverted as a child. Feeling uncomfortable in conversations, she turned to writing and sketching. This new book is for introverted children, she once said in a podcast.
Yulo initially took up computer science in college but was encouraged by a painter/professor to pursue the arts instead. She acquired a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts with minor in creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, and postgraduate degree in the Film Program at Columbia University. Yulo wrote scripts for video games and earned awards including 2022 Bafta Newcomers Program, the Athena List’s Inaugural Disney Development Grant and other citations for screenwriting.
Last year, Penguin Random House launched Yulo’s debut, “Patch of Sky,” a beat-the-odds story of a girl, Pia, and her friend, Patch the pig, who can’t see the sky because of its anatomy. Yet, she finds a way to make it possible. It has since been available as a hardbound, an e-book and audiobook read by voice actor Rachel Jacobs.
Measuring 10 inches in height and width, Yulo’s books are designed to be held by both the parents and the child during their read-aloud bonding.
Yulo finds ways to be engaging to early readers. “I use a lot of dialogue with short and accessible sentences so that it’s fun to read aloud for yourself and for a child to hear,” she says.
Her comic-like illustrations invite young readers from ages 3 to 8 to linger over the pages. “I use a lot of colors. When the character is in pink, then one’s dialogue is in pink. This makes it easy for the kid to differentiate each character,” she explains.
Then there are images that are unrelated to the story but can be spotted by the children.
‘Patch of Sky’
“In ‘Patch of Sky,’ there is a tiny blue mouse in every page. He does his own thing. People get a kick of out that,” she says.
Like “Patch of Sky,” “Out of the Blue” is a picture book designed for early readers. Behind the animated illustrations lie the planning, deliberation and hard work.
Her second was more labor intensive as it involved research and more picture details. Yulo immersed herself at the marine section and at an exhibit of bioluminescence or light-emitting creatures at the American Museum of Natural History. In another gallery, there was a gemstone exhibit that inspired her color palette of dark orange, blue chartreuse and yellow.
Yulo’s children’s books draw references in science. “Patch of Sky” called attention to the pig’s anatomy that restricts them to look upwards. In “Out of the Blue,” she took liberties to humanize and enliven the fish that are based on real species.
“It’s fun to see how kids react to the weird looks of the fish—and there are many,” she says. Children have the gift of spotting details which adults tend to overlook.
The aim is to spark curiosity about the marine world among the young readers and subtly inject scientific information.
For the book cover, the diminutive, pink-haired Coral stands in front of the aquarium filled with bizarre fish. This serves as a visual equivalent of feeling small in a big world.
After a career of writing videogame narratives, Yulo is now a freelance writer and is developing a novel for middle school readers. Pitching scripts have been on hold since the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes in Hollywood.
“Luckily, I work in publishing,” says Yulo. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
“Out of the Blue” can be ordered via Penguin Random House, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, Powell’s, Walmart and Target.