Color Versus Shapes

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Color Versus Shapes Book Poster Image
Good-natured contest teaches kids about colors and shapes.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teaches about primary colors and how two primary colors can combine to make secondary colors. Identifies many shapes and shows how some can combine to make a new one (for example, two triangles can make a square). Many of the shape names will be new vocabulary for young readers (and possibly their parents!).

Positive Messages

Colors and shapes are both valuable, because together they create the things we see in our world, in nature and in man-made things, such as vehicles and buildings. It's fun to mix colors and create new colors. It's fun to think about how many kinds of shapes make up the world we see. Life doesn't have to be a competition: We can celebrate our unique value and contribution together. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both colors and shapes are proud of who they are and what they contribute and are excited to show off their talents and make a good case for their team. They're also glad to collaborate and acknowledge the other team's value.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Colors Versus Shapes, the sequel to Mike Boldt's wonderful 123 Versus ABC, reprises the clever motif of a friendly battle to determine whom are the stars of the book in hand. Colors make their case and shapes make theirs, and three judges (characters from the previous book) must decide. It's lively, funny, and educational, but some of the complex shape names ("ellipse," "nonagon," "rhombus") may be hard for little ones to grasp, pronounce, or retain. 

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What's the story?

Team 1 is a bunch of colors, and Team 2 is a group of white shapes outlined in black. The teams are battling to figure out whom the book is about. They each make their case and strut their stuff onstage in front of three judges: an alligator, the number 1, and the letter A (from 123 Versus ABC). "This book is already square! How can we lose?" asks a triangle.The primary colors mix and blend to create green, orange, and purple. Two triangles combine to make a square. And so it goes in a lively, accelerating one-upsmanship that leads to shapes getting colors and becoming a landscape of familiar items: houses, mountains, a sailboat's sail (triangles), trees, apples, wheels (circles), and so. They both win!

Is it any good?

SHAPES VERSUS COLORS is as exuberant as Mike Boldt's delightful 123 Versus ABC but slightly less engaging. The problem is that many of the interesting shapes may be lost on the little ones who can easily grasp the varied colors. How many 4-year-olds will have heard of a rhombus, a heptagon, or "irregular polygons"? 

But the cute premise leads to an exciting reveal that shows shapes and colors in the real world, including the red octagon recognizable as a stop sign. And the friendly, triumphant conclusion underscores a message of appreciating each other's value.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about shapes. What shapes to you see inside your house or apartment? Which ones do you see out the window where you live? 

  • What new shapes did you learn about in Colors Versus Shapes

  • Did you know about mixing primary colors to make secondary colors? Try it with your own paint set. What color can you make from blue and yellow? Red and blue? 

Book details

  • Author: Mike Boldt
  • Illustrator: Mike Boldt
  • Genre: Colors
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Harper
  • Publication date: August 12, 2014
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
  • Number of pages: 40
  • Available on: Hardback
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

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