Monday, May 14, 2012

The Black Book of Colors

Thanks to Robin Hancock!

Cottin, M. & Faria, R. (2006). The black book of colors. Canada: Groundwood Books.
I recently learned about this book in an early education course.  The publication is written in the third person, where the narrator states how his friend "Thomas" can smell, taste, touch and hear colors.  The book is written to describe colors using other senses besides sight and it is inferred that Thomas is a child with a visual impairment. This written work includes a Braille translation of the text on each page and the illustrations are black in color as shown above, yet are raised to appeal to the sense of touch.  The text describes each color using experiences such as "Thomas says that blue is the color of the sky when kites are flying and the sun is beating hot on his head." Yet, the book does not include any plot elements its purpose is to describe colors using all of our senses and experiences that do not include sight. However, the story does include characterization of the main character through him expressing his thoughts about each color, to show his personality.  The award seal on the book cover is from The New York Times for being a recipient of "Best Illustrated Children's Book Awards".
I felt that is publication was an excellent choice to reflect on within the genre of picture books because it included all of the visual elements (line, color, shape, texture, composition).  This is especially unique since texture is not an element normally found in picture books. In fact, our class text speaks of texture in books as impressionistic, or giving the impression to the reader of what the object must feel like.  Yet, the whole point of this book is to afford the reader with a tactile experience. The composition of the pictures focus on the objects and experiences being described in the text. As a result, there are not multiple items in the illustrations; rather the basis of the composition is placement of the items in alignment with the experience that is being described. As an example, the illustration included on the page with the quote above, the kite is in an upward motion as if it is floating up into the sky. 
I would recommend this book for many different audiences.  In addition to readers with visual impairments, this book could also be used to teach colors in a preschool classroom or to teach adjectives and descriptive writing to any age student. I feel this way because I am a proponent of incorporating as many senses as possible and building on prior experiences to teach new content.  This book selection allows an educator to do both. In addition, this story could be used to show students the challenges faced by people with sight disabilities and to cultivate a sense of consideration for others, in young children. I do wonder if the illustrations in this story were kept the same, yet the colors were just described instead of described from the perspective of a character, if the book would have as much meaning?

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