Title: The Black Book of Colours
Author: Menena Cottin
Illustrator: Rosana Faria
First Published: March 2012
No. of pages: 24
Our eyes tell us about colour. But what if you are blind? Can you still know colours? Using simple language and beautiful textured art, this book shows you how to “see” without your eyes. The pages are black, but using your imagination and your senses you can hear, smell, touch and taste colours! Red is sour like unripe strawberries and sweet as watermelon. Yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers. Blue is the colour of the sky when kites are flying. From out of the blackness, a beautiful rainbow of colours emerges!
I picked up this book in our local library for my three-year-old son because I was enchanted with both the cover (the picture is black on black, but is raised and glossy) and the concept (a book about colour with no colours!).
The text inside is bold white on black pages and is accompanied by braille, and on the opposite pages are beautiful raised illustrations (black on black) so that the colours being described by “Thomas” can be experienced by touch, rather than sight. The words are beautifully descriptive – yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers; brown crunches under his feet like autumn leaves – and I found myself closing my eyes to better absorb them with the pictures.
Reading this book with my son prompted a discussion about how some people can’t see and that they experience the world in different ways. It also resulted in us playing a game of “What colour does this taste / smell / feel / sound like?” which was fun and revealing – apparently the rustle of plastic bags sounds orange to Xander, but I suspect that’s because he’s seen the ones from Sainsbury’s, and grapes tasted purple, even though we only had green ones!
The only slight issue with this book is that the braille isn’t really raised enough to distinguish the words, and I have read elsewhere that sight-impaired children find it next to impossible to read as a result, which is a shame, because this really is a wonderful book.
The Black Book of Colours is a magical experience for both young readers and the adults who read with them and is highly recommended by both me and Xander!
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite