The Bluest of Blues by Fiona Robinson

THE BLUEST OF BLUES, Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs, written and breathtakingly illustrated by Fiona Robinson.

Having a father who was a scientist, Anna Atkins was inspired by nature and education from a very early age. She studied shells, plants, insects, and illustrated their minute details. Her father helped her label and catalog her drawings.

The story describes Anna’s life and her passion for collecting, cataloging, and studying specimens. Later, she becomes enthralled with a new invention— photography. Anna sees this medium as a much faster way to document her studies and be able to share them with more people. Although Anna’s early photographs have faded over time and no longer exist, she is accredited as one of the first women in the world to take a photograph!

Then Anna is introduced to the cyanotype print. A process using chemically treated paper, water, and strong sunlight— these pictures will not fade. They are also more commonly called “sun prints”. Because of the chemicals that are used on the paper, the images produced are always blue. Anna found these prints to be more technically accurate than any illustrations that she could create and went on to produce books containing these beautiful blue images.

Fiona Robinson’s artwork has a dreamlike quality and in illustrating this book in a blue palette it adds to that ethereal quality. She provides pops of color here and there almost like punctuation to keep the layouts interesting and enhance the pacing of the narrative.

This book seems like the perfect way to introduce kids to nature and to create their own sun prints as an activity. A detailed afterward in the book gives the reader basic instructions describing how to create your own cyanotypes.

I am going to try this!

We at Picture Book Builders are now posting on Instagram and Facebook. I hope that you will use the links here on our blog to follow us on Social Media. If my prints turn out I’ll try to post some on Instagram for you to see!

A cyanotype of algae by Anna Atkins

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. Colleen Kelley

    This looks so interesting and beautiful, Jennifer. I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Love learning about cyanotype prints and Anna Atkins’ life work of studying and documenting nature.

  3. This is so interesting, Jennifer. I will have to look up Anna Atkins life and work. I learned about cyanotype from Lauren Redniss’ book on the Curies. You would love it. It’s one of my favorites.

  4. I’m really grateful for the recommendation, Vijaya, and am going to look it up now. Thanks so much! 💙

  5. Cassie+Bentley

    I love this. My daughter got into photography in high school and showed my the sun print process too. I love the blues in this book. I didn’t know about Anna Atkins. I’d like to know more about her after reading this book. Thank you. I cannot wait to read it.

  6. Such a lovely book! I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  7. This is stunning and has Caldecott written/illustrated all over it! Thanks for sharing it, Jennifer.

  8. Looks gorgeous! Looking forward to this read!

  9. What a fabulous idea for a picture book about sun prints–and how interesting of a story about Anna! Congrats!

  10. Angie Quantrell

    Ooh, this looks wonderful! I just read something about sun prints in a magazine. Beautiful!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *