________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 20 . . . . May 30, 2008

cover The Black Book of Colors.

Menena Cottin. Illustrated by Rosana Faria. Translated by Elisa Amado.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-873-6.

Subject Headings:
Colors-Juvenile literature.
Touch-Juvenile literature.

Kindergarten-grade 5 / Ages 5-10.

Review by Charlotte Enns.

**** /4


Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.

But black is the king of all the colors. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face.


The Black Book of Colors is truly a unique book. Not only is the text presented in both English print and braille, the illustrations are textured rather than coloured. This approach makes the book completely accessible to blind readers and, in addition, allows sighted readers to experience and imagine what it is like to read by touch. The positive emphasis on “seeing” in other ways – through touch, taste, sound and smell – shifts the focus from viewing blindness as a disability or deficit to simply considering it a difference.

     The content of the book does not involve a plot but rather consists of a series of descriptions focused around basic colours, including yellow, red, blue, white, green, brown, and black. The descriptive statements do not refer to visual information but emphasize other senses to bring meaning to what a colour represents. For example, “yellow tastes like mustard” and “brown crunches under his feet like fall leaves.” 

     It is the format of the book that really stands out. All the pages in this book are completely black. Each page first presents the descriptive statement in braille (raised black dot symbols) and then the same statement is written in white font. On the opposite page, which is also completely black, is a drawing created through raised black lines.  These drawings can be deciphered through touch. The full braille alphabet is also included at the end of the book so that readers can make connections to the text and learn about this unique coding system.

     The Black Book of Colors provides an excellent opportunity for children and adults to explore experiences and perspectives that are different from their own. Through the content and format of this book, readers will begin to understand the experience of a person who can only see through his or her other senses – touch, taste, smell, and hearing. With some imagination, readers can also begin to consider how others may hear, move, or communicate in ways that are different from what is typical. Overall, these opportunities can provide a better understanding and appreciation for differences and contribute to a more inclusive environment for all.
     I would highly recommend this book for parents, teachers and young children. The format helps sighted readers to imagine what it is like to be blind. The content stimulates the imagination to find ways to describe visual images through other senses. This book also has the value of teaching all readers to appreciate difference and, indirectly, the importance of inclusion. The Black Book of Colors is fully accessible to children who are blind, and it will validate their own experiences and acknowledge them as experts in reading by touch. These features make it a very appropriate “educational resource” in the classroom, but this should not take away from the book’s main value of providing a unique and innovative reading experience.

Highly Recommended.

Charlotte Enns teaches inclusive special education at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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ISSN 1201-9364
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