Teaching Kids to Ask the Big Questions

Alumni5 MIN READ

Artist Steven Weinberg ’06 takes an interdisciplinary approach to his children’s books

Steven Weinberg '06 is an old-school illustrator with a book due out this summer, What Is Color? His children’s books have won awards and distinctions, including the Virginia Reader’s Choice Award, the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, the Today show’s Holiday Pick, and Parents magazine Best Children’s Book 2021.
By Kayla Voigt '14Photography by Bridget Badore
February 28, 2024

The best stories start with a question. For Steven Weinberg ’06, that question is: What Is Color?

That’s the topic (and title) of his latest children’s book, a sprawling, eye-popping look at what makes every color of the rainbow. “I’ve always loved interdisciplinary stories and seeing ways politics, economics, history, and science translate onto a canvas,” said Weinberg.

“I think it will be a really fun book for kids because it’s full of all kinds of weird stuff,” he said. “There are these fascinating stories, like how people used to grind up mummies for brown paint, and then I’ve included a whole section on how the electromagnetic spectrum works in a way a kid can follow.”

Weinberg, a writer, illustrator, and painter who lives in the Catskills of New York, took a liberal arts approach to creating the book, which clocks in at 144 pages, detailing the story behind each color. What Is Color? will be published by Roaring Brook, an imprint of Macmillan, this summer, and it is available for preorder now.

This kind of approach echoes his time at Colby, double majoring in government and art. “The natural interdisciplinary nature of my education at Colby informs everything I do. In the course of the book I pull from my experience taking studio art, art history, government, and physics classes. I mean, I couldn’t have written this book without taking [Professor of Art Bevin] Engman’s classes on color theory,” he said.

Artist Steven Weinberg in West Kill, N.Y., where he writes and illustrates interdisciplinary stories while exploring the ways politics, economics, history, and science translate onto a canvas.

It started at the Echo

Outside of the classroom, Weinberg served as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, the Echo. This was his first foray into real-life writing and illustrating, including a recurring comics section for the paper based on interviews with campus Security. “That was my first time on a deadline,” he laughed. “We were down in the basement of Bobs at all hours trying to finish each edition, and we’d sit there and chat with Security about various student hijinks. They were always great to talk to—and an endless source of good anecdotes.”

This kind of expansive, off-the-cuff storytelling served him well after graduating. Weinberg jumped headfirst into teaching English abroad in China and Mali before publishing his first book in 2011 with wife Casey Scieszka, an illustrated memoir of their travels together. Since then, he’s published several more children’s books on a wide range of topics, from dinosaurs to dishwashers.

Widely praised, his children’s books have won such awards and distinctions as the Virginia Reader’s Choice Award (You Must Be This Tall), YALSA Reader’s Choice (To TImbuktu), the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection (AstroNuts: Mission One and The Middle Kid), the Today show’s Holiday Pick (Big Job Series), and Parents magazine Best Children’s Book 2021 (Washer & Dryer’s Big Job).

A page from What Is Color? The Global and Sometimes Gross Story of Pigments, Paint, and the Wondrous World of Art.

When not writing and making art, Weinberg and his wife operate the Spruceton Inn: A Catskills Bed and Bar and host an annual artist residency.

“There was never one straight path after Colby,” Weinberg said. “For me, and what I think is at the core of my liberal arts education, is that every time you have a question, you just need to chase that question. You’ve been given the tools to learn and create, and those are the projects that become something special.”

For Weinberg, it’s just as much about creating something new as it is cultivating community. “I talk to kids often in the process of creating books, and when I ask who likes to draw and who likes to write stories, every kid raises their hand. I love capturing that imagination,” he said. Despite graduating nearly two decades ago, he still keeps in touch with professors and alumni that help bring his children’s books to life. Said Weinberg, “I have an ‘it takes a village’ approach to creating. Colby’s been a pretty amazing village for that.”