A delightful read-aloud children’s book with cartoon-like illustrations, “Out of the Blue” tells the story of a reluctant, vertically disabled girl who regains her confidence after encountering a tiny octopus in an aquarium.
Published by Penguin Random House, it is about Coral, a child intimidated about pursuing her dreams due to her insecurity. Being the smallest in her class, she is often overlooked, leaving her insignificant. During an excursion to an aquarium, she meets Kranken, an adorabilis octopus. This cute and tiny sea creature can camouflage itself to be invisible from the environment and glow where little sunlight seeps through.
Coral eventually learns from Kranken that being “invisible” or glowing is a choice, and that she has both powers. She realizes that, like the little octopus, each creature can be comfortable being different because they have their own space in the ecosystem.
For introverted children
The story connects to the experiences of New York-based Filipino author Nic Yulo, who was an introvert as a child. Feeling uncomfortable in conversations, she turned to writing and drawing. This new book is for introverted kids, she once said in a podcast.
Yulo initially studied computer science at university, but was encouraged by a painter/professor to pursue art. She earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a minor in creative writing at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, and a graduate degree in the film program at Columbia University. Yulo has written scripts for video games and has won awards including the 2022 Bafta Newcomers Program, the inaugural Athena List Disney Development Fellowship, and other screenwriting citations.
Last year, Penguin Random House released Yulo’s debut, “Patch of Sky,” the unexpected 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 hardback, e-book, and audiobook read by voice actor Rachel Jacobs.
Measuring 10 inches in height and width, Yulo books are designed to be held by both parent and child while reading aloud.
Yulo finds ways to interest early readers. “I use a lot of dialogue with short, accessible sentences so it’s fun to read aloud to yourself and for a child to hear it,” she says.
Its comic-book-style illustrations invite young readers aged 3 to 8 to linger over the pages. “I use a lot of colors. When the character is in pink, then his dialogue is in pink. This allows the child to easily differentiate between each character,” she explains.
Then there are images that have no relation to the story but can be spotted by children.
“Corner of Heaven”
“In “Patch of Sky,” there is a little blue mouse on every page. He does his own thing. People like it,” she says.
Like “Patch of Sky,” “Out of the Blue” is a picture book designed for early readers. Behind the animated illustrations are planning, deliberations and hard work.
Her second was more labor intensive as it involved research and more image detail. Yulo immersed herself in the marine section and an exhibit of bioluminescent, or light-emitting, creatures at the American Museum of Natural History. In another gallery, there was a display of gemstones that inspired her color palette of deep orange, chartreuse blue and yellow.
Yulo’s children’s books refer to science. “Patch of Sky” drew attention to the pig’s anatomy that prevents it from looking upward. In “Out of the Blue,” she took liberties to humanize and animate the fish based on real species.
“It’s fun to see how kids react to strange looks from fish, and there are a lot of them,” she says. Children have a knack for spotting details that adults tend to overlook.
The objective is to awaken curiosity about the marine world in young readers and to subtly inject scientific information.
For the cover of the book, the little coral with pink hair stands in front of the aquarium filled with weird fish. This provides a visual equivalent of feeling small in a big world.
After a career writing video game stories, Yulo is now a freelance writer developing a novel aimed at middle school readers. Pitch scripts have been on hold since the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes in Hollywood.
“Luckily, I work in publishing,” Yulo says. —INQ CONTRIBUTED
“Out of the Blue” can be ordered through Penguin Random House, Amazon, Bookshop.org, Hudson Booksellers, Powell’s, Walmart and Target.