Title: The Black Book of Colors

Author: Menena Cottin

Illustrator:  Rosana Faria

Translator: Elisa Amado (the book was originally published in Spanish)

Publisher: Toronto/Berkeley: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2006.

Genre: Picture book/concept book

Audience Age: 4 and up

Themes/topics: Blindness, blindness awareness, colors, describing colors using other senses, the senses, tolerance

Opening Sentences: Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.

Synopsis: This amazing little book is designed to give sighted children a taste of what it’s like to be blind. The sparse text (printed at the lower edge of each left-hand page) is paired with modified braille text above it. The facing page has an illustration, but the illustrations are very different to those of regular books. The pages are all in black, and the illustrations are black as well, but are raised so that the reader can feel the pictures. There is no plot, rather “Thomas” simply describes all the colors in terms of the other senses, describes them in ways that would be accessible to blind or visually impaired children.

Activities/Resources: The first activity that springs to mind is to simply talk with the child or children about what they think it would be like to be sight-impaired.

This post on the Quirky Momma blog shows a touch-and-feel bag of objects that she used with her son in teaching him about blindness. I particularly appreciate that she also mentions The Black Book of Colors!

Another activity that I thought of was to do a blind-folded “trust walk” – but an article by Carol Castellano cautions against doing this.

There are numerous fun activities to help children understand blindness on the BrailleSC (South Carolina) blog, and these would deal with the concerns Castellano raised in the previous article.

The American Foundation for the Blind has a fabulous website to teach sighted children about blindness, called BrailleBug. Learning about Braille is just one of the activities available there. From the BrailleBug site, here is a link to Decoding Braille.

Children may wonder how blind children can do art, if they can’t see color. This site talks about Art for the Blind.

I found several websites that suggested sand art. Various sorts of sand art can create artworks that both visually-impaired and sighted children can enjoy with their fingertips. Sand can be added to children’s liquid paint (put it in baby food jars, suggested one website) and designs can be made that have both color and texture. Or simply draw a design on stiff paper with school glue, and shake sand over it. Once it has dried, there will be a “feelable” artwork for the child to enjoy.

To think further about colors and black, an art project I remember from third grade was to color a piece of paper heavily and abstractly with many colors of wax crayon, then color over all that with black wax crayon. Then using a sharpish tool like a cuticle stick (the wooden kind) or a popsicle stick, draw through the black to show the color underneath.

Availability: Readily available in hardcover.

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


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