I'm a big fan of Leo Lionni, and I remember so many of his books from when I was a kid. But I didn't know that Mr. Lionni was an ad man.. and a graphic designer (running his own studio for 20 years).. and the art director for Fortune magazine.. and an accordion player.. and the editor of Print.. and could speak five languages.
Of course he was a graphic designer.. his books always seem to be more about the pictures than the words. I think that's why children love them so much. Even my little ones who can't quite read can figure out the story, and after hearing it once or twice, can sit and "read" his books. (Especially this one, which is short and pretty simple.)
His first children's book was created as a distraction for his grandchildren during a boring train trip.. I can see him with his notepad drawing on the train, making the story up as it goes along while his grandchildren laugh and watch. It was the story of a little blue dot and a little yellow dot.. Little Blue and Little Yellow.
Little blue and little yellow are best friends. Little yellow lives with mama and papa yellow, and little blue lives across the street with his parents, mama blue and papa blue.
Little blue and little yellow go to school together, where they sit in neat rows. After school they run and jump with their friends.
One day while they are out playing, they hug each other and become.. green!
When they go back home, their parents don't recognize them. "You are not little yellow, you are not little blue.. you are green!" Which makes them so sad they cry and cry until they are a puddle of blue and yellow tears. Then they pull themselves together and run home to their families.
A clever little book told in simple shapes and words.. it even has lovely endpapers. (A good graphic designer never forgets the details!)
You can read more about Mr. Lionni here, an essay written by his granddaughter.