Danny Blue’s Really Excellent Dream – Review

Cover Image for Danny Blue's Really Excellent Dream

Danny Blue’s Really Excellent Dream by Max Landrak

This book was Notable for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Picture Book of the Year.

A story about a curious and inventive boy that will make kids think about how each of us sees the world. Danny Blue lives in a world where everything is blue. And while there are many different shades and hues, everything is essentially the same. But then one night Danny sees something in a dream that is unlike anything else. He tried to describe it, but no one can understand what he means, and so he decides to create the thing he saw in his Really Excellent Dream (or R.E.D.). A wonderfully illustrated, off-beat story about invention, dreams and thinking outside the box.

Yo listen up, here’s the story
About a little guy that lives in a blue world
And all day and all night and everything he sees is just blue
Like him, inside and outside
Blue his house with a blue little window
And a blue Corvette
And everything is blue for him
And himself and everybody around
‘Cause he ain’t got nobody to listen
I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
– I’m Blue (Da Ba Dee Da Ba Die) by Eiffel 65
So, Danny Blue lives in a blue world, eating his blueberries.
And then he has a DREAM!
A not blue dream! [the audience may recognise this colour as red]
Danny is concerned about this and asks a lot of questions of different people – including Mr Blue and Dr Indigo. The worst thing is that he cannot explain just what he saw. So he decides to make something to show people what he saw…not-blue. At first people don’t like not-blue but then people start to use it and understand how wonderful it is.
The core message of this story is about differences, acceptance, and expressing yourself. This is all done through the helpful medium of colour. We see so many different shades of blue (a small selection – sunset blue, bubbly blue, electric blue, etc. though my favourites are strawberry blue and raspberry blue).
I go out to talk to new parents and discuss the importance of reading and rhyming with them and there are so many amazing benefits to reading and rhyming with children but one of the ones that always gets to me is the depth of meaning that can be explored through books. We have here a simple word – blue. A simple word, a simple meaning – blue is blue, it’s the colour of the sky and a primary colour. We see it everywhere but that doesn’t really explain the depth of meaning that is invested in the word blue.
Which one is blue? Are they all blue? The simple answer is yes. But a book like this allows us to explore the fact that all of the colours are blue even though we give them names…cornflower blue, royal blue, etc. There is a depth of meaning inherent in something that is a fun part of the book and makes the intricacies of language just a little more clear because we can associate them with a picture.
But back to the message of the book. Danny sees something in a dream no one else can fathom because they only see blue. He’s told not to worry, it was just a dream. He’s told there is nothing wrong with him but he feels that something is wrong and there is something to worry about. This situation will be familiar to children. I’m sure we have all, as adults, said don’t worry or there’s nothing wrong but this book reminds us that sometimes we need to take go down the other path of exploring that feeling with children.
Then, when Danny has the idea to make not-blue people don’t like it and the inference is that they don’t like it because it’s DIFFERENT. Again something we can all relate to a feeling of difference and a familiarity with how people react to change. Until change and different become familiar and we forget that once we did not like it.
Because we are exploring these concepts in a book about colours children are given a position of power to start with. They know what blue is and that not-blue is red, and that the last page where Danny has another dream of not-blue-and-not-red the colour is yellow. In doing this, children are familiar with the ‘different’ and the ‘change’ that cause conflict in the book so it is not confronting to them in the same way it is to the characters in the book. This allows them to explore the ideas from a position of knowledge and safety. Then they can look at other situations where something new was not good just because it was new.
Then we have the pictures. Most of the book is shades of blue with black and white. Yet, even in a blue world the way the pictures have been done with a white background on so many of the pages we are not overcome with a feeling of blue, nor does the world feel foreign when there are no other colours. There is something very relatable in Danny. And in the way he handles the situation.
This book also has some wonderful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) element. Danny’s dad is a paint maker and Danny does experiments with colour to make not-blue so we see a child working with scientific equipment who is not touted as a scientist in the book but this is just something he does.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed Danny’s journey and the message. I’m looking forward to sharing this book with the people who come to Storytime.
Have you read this book? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments below.