Listed as one of the best illustrated books of the year by the New York Times, I finally got my hands on a copy to review. It really is a delightful book, and makes a difficult subject approachable and engaging. I don’t know that I’d call it the best illustrated book of the year–it’s not really illustrated at all. But it is a wonderful book, and here’s why.
Originally written in Spanish, the book has no color, simple text in white against a black background, with braille above it, and, on the facing page, embossed images of feathers, strawberries, etc. The book illustrates what it means to be blind: The narrator tells what each color feels and tastes like, since a blind child cannot see what it looks like: “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.” And the facing page has embossed images of feathers.
The reader is taking the place of the blind child. Note the narrative voice: Thomas (a character outside) tells the author/reader (the blind one) what yellow is like using the other senses. Since there is not yellow on the page, the only thing a reader has are the words, and memory of other items (mustard, baby chicks) to conjure the image of yellow.
While this book is extraordinary for a child that might have a blind sibling, I think it’s valuable for every child. It engages all the senses, and teaches a child that there is more than just vision. It also demands that they stretch their imagination, and try to understand the way the world works. Finally, the simple narrative is a delight to read aloud; engaging and a little bit silly, this book is a delight.
Purchase “The Black Book of Colors” through this link and a portion of the sale will support the CIC.