Cottin, M. (2006). The Black Book of Colors. Toronto: Groundwood Books.
With a name like "The Black Book of Colors" how could you not want to read this picturebook. I ran out and hunted it down at my library. And by "ran out" I mean reserved it online and wandered on down to pick it up from my local branch several days later. But I was still excited to see it waiting for me on the shelf.
Appetizer: The pages of this picturebook are almost completely black. The story actually shares its text and illustrations in braille (although the text is also written in white for those who can't read braille yet) as Thomas describes his opinions of the colors. The text shares his descriptions of colors, connecting them to the taste or smell of foods or the feel and sound of certain objects. The illustrations include raised, texturized images on each right page.
I love this book. For readers who can see, this book provides awareness for the experience of being blind. And for young readers who can't see, this story allows readers to envision colors and to still enjoy the experience of having illustrations.
My one issue about this book arises from a personal experience. Several years ago, I took several classes with a professor who was blind. Now, I know this could depend on the cause, but my teacher always hated books that presented blindness as living in darkness. She would say that she saw milky lightness all the time. Now for the concept of this book, it's probably easier to construct the book in black as opposed to white.
I also wished the story had included more information about who Thomas was as a character. Is he based on a specific person? I would have liked to learn more in an afterword.
I particularly liked the page that describes the experience of a rainbow coming out after the rain. Instead of having texturized lines across the illustration page, the page features arches of the different fruits and objects used in the previous pages to describe the colors (there's a line of strawberries to represent red, chick feathers to represent yellow).
My other favorite pages was the one that described rain pouring down. The rain drops felt really cool.
"Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers."
"Brown crunches under his feet like fall leaves. Sometimes it smells like chocolate, and other times it stinks."
"Thomas thinks that without the sun, water doesn't amount to much. It has no color, no taste, no smell."
"He says that green tastes like lemon ice cream and smells like grass that's just been cut."
"But black is the king of all the colors."
To Go with the Meal:
This story provides perspective taking and allows students to understand colors in a new way. In response to reading the book, students could imagine the experience of blindness or try to describe common objects in unique ways to try to understand them in a new way.
This book would be great to use when introducing students to the Braille alphabet. Students could practice reading Braille with this picturebook.
Tasty Rating: !!!!