Book Review: The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin

I am truly smitten by this book. It is unlike any book I’ve read before. It is incredibly thought-provoking, enlightening and powerful.

Peta Kennedy first brought this book to my attention in a Facebook discussion, while some of our community members were attempting to compile a list of books based on the theme of disability. It seemed fitting to review this book as a follow-up to Peta’s moving article: ‘Choosing Books for Sight‘.

The Black Book of Colours is in fact a book about colours. Surprisingly though, colours do not appear in the book at all. Instead, each page is black.

As we read this book, we walk in the shoes of Thomas, a blind boy. He takes us on a colourful journey using words and textured, mono-coloured images.

‘Thomas likes all the colours because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.’

Thomas describes colours using the most descriptive imagery, encouraging the reader to imagine the beauty of the world through senses other than sight.

‘Brown crunches under his feet like autumn leaves. Sometimes it smells like chocolate, and other times it stinks.’

As I read this book to my daughter I realised I had taken colours for granted. Until reading this book, I’d never stopped to think about what colours taste, feel, smell or sound like.  My senses were awoken by the beautiful and breathtaking text chosen by Menena Cottin.

The pages may be black, but they are beautiful to look at and to touch. Each page features white text upon black pages. The illustrations are also black but they are lustrous and raised, allowing you to absorb the images by tracing your fingers over the pages of the book.

The approach taken by Menena and Roasana Faria gives children with vision an awareness of a world without sight. Its features (including braille translation and a braille alphabet), effectively introduce sighted readers to braille.

Most importantly, this is a brilliant resource which provides a powerful springboard into discussions on sight, disability and communication. Sight aside, I think the book also demonstrates how differently each individual, regardless of ability, views the world.

A wonderful set of teachers’ notes has also been produced by Walker Books, which can be downloaded here.

Book details:

By Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

ISBN: 978-1406322187

Format: Hardcover

Publisher: Walker Books, March 2010

RRP: $24.95 (aud)

Book Review: The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin

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  1. It is such a beautiful book! Such elegant simplicity in conveying its message. I cherish this book and its learning opportunities for all children. Can I perhaps point out a small thing that I try to remember when talking about children with special needs? It is super positive to refer to them in people first language – ie Child with Autism rather than Autistic child. They are a child first and foremost. Thank you for broadening readers’ horizons with this post. Have you read ‘Ian’s Walk: A Story about Autism’ by Laurie Lears, illustrated by Karen Ritz? Or ‘Understanding Sam and Aspergers Syndrome’ by Clarabelle van Niekerk & Liezl Venter? These are also favourites of mine which are great resources for explaining to children about children with special needs.

  2. SO glad you linked up with this today. For a start it’s always interesting to have multiple reviews of the same book, and also this is a personal favourite of mine. Such a clever, beautiful, intriguing book.

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