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The Black Book of Colors

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A New York Times Book Review choice as one of the 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2008

It is very hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind. This groundbreaking, award-winning book endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his or her sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing.

Raised black line drawings on black paper, which can be deciphered by touch, complement a beautifully written text describing colors through imagery. Braille letters accompany the text so that the sighted reader can begin to imagine what it is like to use Braille to read. A full Braille alphabet at the end of the book can be used to learn more.

24 pages, Hardcover

First published June 30, 2006

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Menena Cottin

17 books26 followers

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5 stars
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275 (10%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 430 reviews
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books24.9k followers
August 13, 2015
كتاب عبقري؛ يجعلك ترى الألوان بحواسك الأخرى. تسمع صوتها وتشم رائحتها وتتحسس دفئها. كتاب ذكي وإنساني جدا.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
October 25, 2017
The Black Book of Colors is a wonderful book to help a sighted person imagine what it is like to be blind. Facing pages have a kind of Braille experience, raised black line drawings on black paper, which can be deciphered by touch. Words help kids experience blindness metaphorically, in terms of other senses.

“Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

“Red is sour like unripe strawberries and as sweet as watermelon. It hurst when he finds it on his scraped knee.”

It’s not really a full Braille production, but Braille letters accompany the text so that the sighted reader can begin to imagine what it is like to use Braille to read. A full Braille alphabet at the end of the book is included so kids can begin to get curious about learning that. The book is appropriately all black, save the text in white letters, which helps us experience sight analogically.

I passed this around at a birthday party last night, with only sighted people there, and people took turns closing their eyes to feel each facing page after they read the script. I will recall those images for a long time.

“Brown crunches under his feet like fall leaves. Sometimes it smells like chocolate, and other times it stinks.”

An important book to own, to help us see blindness, to understand how our personal contexts shape the ways we experience the world.
Profile Image for Moira Clunie.
46 reviews19 followers
September 24, 2010
this book is a beautiful thing, but gets four stars and not five because i wanted it to be a bit more beautiful. the words are about different ways of perceiving colours: what they taste and sound and smell like to someone without sight ("green smells like lemon ice cream and smells like grass that's just been cut.") the pages are black, the words are in braille as well as print, and they're illustrated with raised tactile drawings.

but here's the thing: the braille isn't real braille (it's not deep enough to read), and the tactile pictures aren't really designed to be read tactually. as a concept it's lovely, but the economic realities of mass book production means that it sort of fails in its execution. a blind child couldn't read this independently. a sighted child learning about braille would learn that it's very hard to feel and that blind people must have super-senses.

so i have mixed feelings: i love it, but i wish that it realised its potential.
Profile Image for AleJandra.
814 reviews412 followers
February 18, 2019
4 Blind and special STARS

Qué libro tan único y original.

La historia de cómo un niño ciego puede apreciar los colores. Nos enseña a ver el mundo desde una perspectiva completamente diferente.


Las imágenes de la historia son todas obscuras y solo se pueden apreciar tocando las paginas ya que todo es por medio de texturas.

Además, la historia también viene en braille.
Este libro lo recibí como parte de un programa de estudio para mi niña de 5 años y estoy muy emocionada para que aprendamos a leer en braille.

El libro que tengo es la traducción en inglés, me encantaría poder verlo en español, mi gran aprecio a la autora latina que creo esta preciosura de libro, tan aclamado y multipremiado.
4 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2017
I got this book because I was curious if it truly introduced people to what it is like to be blind, and I have to say, it does. I'm blind, and I love to bring this book out at gatherings and hear the discussions that occurs because of this book. The book's illustrations are interesting to feel, and even though the braille is obviously not meant for reading by the blind, I could read it. I liked how they included the braille alphabet at the end, because people just can't imagine how you can read in dots.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,734 reviews1,200 followers
September 7, 2011
This is a cool idea for a book, but I had a hard time loving it or learning from it because apparently my fingers are stupid. I’m really glad I haven’t had to learn Braille, though I suppose if it ever became necessary, I would find it possible. Here, the illustrations are raised black on black paper, there is Braille translation of the simple sentences on each page, and there is a full Braille alphabet at the back, which I think would take me a long time to learn to read.

I vividly remember being seven and a half, and being in summer school prior to my third grade year. We had two blind students in the class and I became friends with one of them. One day, after school, we were together and with our mothers and the girl’s mother said something like the girl couldn’t understand what it meant that the sky was blue. I was so sure I could explain it. I was a dismal failure at my attempt, and I remember it as being the first time I couldn’t at all teach something I knew. I remember being so flabbergasted that I couldn’t describe what a blue sky looked like. It would have been nice to have this book. I’d have gotten more out of it than the blind girl though.

I liked this. I can’t honestly say I really liked it, but that’s due to my limitations. I think it deserves 4 stars, that it’s a worthy enough book for a 4 star rating, and that’s why I’m rating it with 4 stars.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,083 reviews173 followers
July 4, 2019
Venezuelan author/illustrator team Menena Cottin and Rosana Faría team up in this innovative picture-book that attempts to communicate the experience of being blind, and of how colors might be perceived by the blind, to young children. Simple but poetic text describes how colors are experienced by a young blind boy named Thomas, while the artwork on the facing page is done in raised clear line drawings on the deep black paper. The text for sighted children is in white text on the black paper, and is also translated into Braille.

Originally published in Mexico as El libro negro de los colores, and translated into many languages around the world, this lovely, thought-provoking book is really quite unique. I have never really thought about how something like color, which relies on exposure to light, might be communicated to and/or thought about by the blind, but The Black Book of Colors has prompted me to do just that, and to consider how so much of what we think we know is filtered through our method of perceiving it. In this respect, I was reminded of some of the conversations I have had with people who have conditions like synesthesia, and the different ways in which they experience things like words. I really enjoyed Rosana Faría's artwork here, although I am constrained to admit that I simply couldn't perceive much shape, when running my fingers over her raised illustrations, while keeping my eyes closed. It's a shame that the Braille text isn't of a quality that it could actually be read by the blind - apparently production costs would have been too high - but this makes an excellent introduction to the topic for sighted children. Recommended to anyone looking for innovative books addressing blindness, color, and how we look at issues of disability and perception in general.
12 reviews
October 1, 2011
I first saw this book at the Tate and was immediately struck by its originality. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so recently ordered it online.

The Black Book of Colours is a beautiful picture book, with a difference. There are no colours and no pictures to be seen. This is a picture book for blind children, told from the perspective of a blind child named Thomas. “Thomas can’t see colours, but he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them”.

On jet black pages Thomas uses imagery to describe colours, “yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chicks feathers”.
Descriptions are written in white text, meaning that this book can also be enjoyed by sighted readers, and are accompanied by Braille. Illustrations consist only of raised lines across the page and are beautifully executed. It is no surprise that this book was voted A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.

The different textures mean that sighted people can see the images if the book is tilted to the right angle. My fingers, unused to being used for such fine tasks, struggled to pick up the images so I was grateful for this.

Although there is no story as such, I think this book is a lovely resource. I would in the classroom to encourage children to see the world from the point of view of others, to encourage creative thinking and writing, and in art and science.
10 reviews
June 11, 2015
Hermoso libro que nos lleva a valorar la salud, la vista y la niñez.
Profile Image for Karrie.
38 reviews
March 15, 2009
Close your eyes and reach out to read the grass on this page. Turn the page and run your hand over the entire page to read what's there -- keep your eyes closed! In fact, read this entire book with your eyes closed and you're in for a treat! After you read it with eyes tightly shut, go ahead and open them -- all you're going to see are black pages anyway, but if you look closely you will see shapes and figures that are raised and just a little glossier than the flat black of each page in this book.

This is a brilliant little picture book and the only colors in it are black with white text. In addition to the raised black pictures, the text is written in Braille, although it the dots compromising the Braille letters is not raised enough for a blind person to actually read. Children can read and feel this book to experience it on many different levels. It is perfect for units on color, senses, blindness, perception and imagination. One of my students used this book when she delivered an oral presentation about Helen Keller because of the raised text and pictures.

A book such as this could easily be gimmicky or trite, but the text is so prose-like and beautiful, the concept so original, that it doesn't come close to being gimmicky.

On a page where the raised picture is chicken feathers, the text says, "Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is soft as a baby chick's feathers." It's perfect. Each color has a wonderful analogy to what the color tastes like, looks like, or feels like. At the end of the book the Braille alphabet is spelled out. A true experiential book.

This is a really cool book and I highly recommend this book for all ages. In 2007 it was the Winner of the New Horizons Prize at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It was originally published in Spanish.
Profile Image for Eastofoz.
636 reviews334 followers
August 13, 2010
What an unusual book. The concept is interesting: conveying the various hues of color to a blind person through touch. Written for children from the perspective of a young boy named Thomas, the book’s pages are all in matte and shiny black with raised pictures for a person to feel but I don’t think that actually helps someone understand color if they’ve never seen it. The accompanying text, which is also written in Braille, describes how colors feel and associates them with certain things and smells. It’s a different kind of book and one that children seem to be intrigued by. My children were interested in feeling the pages and the Braille writing and they liked the story sometimes and agreeing and disagreeing with the author’s perception of color. It’s a good book (if a little on the short side) that encourages discussion and opens children’s minds to other ideas. This is the kind of book you could have on your coffee table and even adults would be inclined to flip through it and talk about it I think.
Profile Image for Judy.
3,027 reviews51 followers
March 14, 2021
This is guaranteed to stimulate discussion. For example:

Red is sour like unripe strawberries and as sweet as watermelon. It hurts when [Thomas] finds it on his scraped knee.

Example questions: Is that a way to describe red? How would you describe red?

The pages are totally black except for the one sentence printed in white type. On the same page is the same sentence in Braille, and on the facing page is an impressed image. (For red, the image is part of a strawberry plant showing a leaf, 3 strawberries -- one large, two small -- and the stems.) My sense of touch is pretty limited. I couldn't identify any of the pictures by touch alone.

The other colors included in the book: yellow, brown, blue, white, green, and black.

Also: all the colors in a rainbow; water that has no color.

The conclusion:
Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.

My question: Aren't the dots and the images usually more impressed when they are intended for use by a person who has no sight? These are frightfully shallow. (I'd like to hear from someone who can read Braille -- can he/she read the text in this book?). Kids will be left with misconceptions.
October 12, 2015
The Black Book of Colors is a brilliant children's picture book that allows children (and adults) of all ages to imagine colors from the perspective of someone who can't see. Menena Cottin's text includes descriptive words that engage a variety of senses, from taste to smell to touch to help the reader interpret what a variety of colors are. Raised black pictures against a black background beckon the reader to close their eyes and feel the page to get a sense of what each color feels like. Accompanied by a braille translation of the text on each page along with a page dedicated to the braille alphabet at the end, this book can help sighted children understand the world of those without sight and appreciate the colors of the world around them. I found myself imagining summer with most of the colors and their descriptions, with the exception of brown, which "sometimes smells like chocolate, and other times it stinks", which made me giggle and I was thankful the illustration conjured up pictures of fall leaves rather than something stinkier!
Profile Image for Ana.
359 reviews6 followers
September 3, 2021
Um livro que nos apresenta as cores a partir da percepção do Tomás que não vê mas utiliza os outros sentidos para compreender as suas diferenças. Totalmente ilustrado a negro, com desenhos em relevo subtil, escrito também em braille, este livro permite-nos pensar o mundo com outros olhares e sentires 🖤
Profile Image for Kris.
2,855 reviews70 followers
December 10, 2020
Such a unique picture book. In text, braille, and raised pictures, on a surface of pure black, it attempts to explain what colors are like to a blind person. Each color is explained in terms of other senses, like green smelling like grass that's just been cut and red tasting as sweet as watermelon. It is an interesting concept - how do you describe color to someone who cannot see them? This is a good attempt.
Profile Image for Joe.
542 reviews7 followers
November 6, 2010
Amazing book. It is extremely hard to communicate through words alone what it must be like to live another person's life. This book helps children see words with their minds' eyes...allowing them to read words (with their eyes and hands) and "see" illustrations with their finger tips. It is an amazing achievement.
Profile Image for Laura.
27 reviews2 followers
June 11, 2021
¡Acaban de regalármelo y es una auténtica preciosidad!

Es un libro infantil de poco más de 20 páginas y con -literalmente- 10 frases, pero lo más bonito es el concepto y esa maravilla de ilustraciones.

Trata sobre como un niño con ceguera percibe los colores a través del resto de los sentidos y me parece brutal; punto totalmente a favor el braille y las ilustraciones en relieve.

Por último, me ha parecido tremendo que en la pagina final pongan el abecedario, los números y los signos de puntuación en braille, para poder aprender algunas cositas.

Muy emocionada, mis dieces.
Profile Image for Morgan.
72 reviews
March 22, 2021
Such a cool concept! A little boy describes the taste smell and feel of the colors of the rainbow, and the illustrations are done with glossy lines that you feel instead if looking at. I also love that the text is printed on the page in latin letters and also in Braille, but some reviewers have noted that the Braille and the illustrations aren't deep or raised enough to be truly read.
Profile Image for Alaide Mo.
282 reviews122 followers
January 8, 2022
Quiero leer este libro toda mi vida y regalárselo a todas mis amistades.
Profile Image for Katrina Tangen.
338 reviews16 followers
December 1, 2020
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a successful book involving disability. And they at least made an effort to include Braille and raised images. It’s disappointing that it’s only designed for sighted people though. Why not make a board book instead that would allow you to have much higher Braille and raised pictures? You could even add actual textures for the feathers, etc. Also, they could have at least used a larger font so that it’s accessible for people with other levels of blindness.

I think it would be stronger if each color only had one descriptor and a cleaner, more iconic. Most of the pictures don’t really feel like anything. They could have been drawn so you could actually feel the edges. But since they just feel like blobs, they aren’t very useful and give the impression that blind people must not be able to feel/perceive much or must have super senses.

Conceptually, I’m not sure the book makes that much sense. If you’re born fully blind (which is actually rare but seems to be what the book is going for), you aren’t going to conceptualize the world using color. It’s not something that’s relevant to you.

I think the more concrete examples, like the taste of strawberries (although unripe strawberries aren’t really red...) make the most sense. The more abstract ones, like the blue sky, make less sense. And that whole sequence, especially when it says water without the sun “doesn’t amount to much”, seemed really off the mark. Water is always colorless when you’re blind! But you still interact with it a lot. And a rainbow, which is purely visual, seems especially impossible to conceive of without having seen one. Also, just as a story structure thing, it seems very strange to have the rainbow in the middle rather than as the finale. Especially since I think that’s supposed to be grass at the bottom, which is then introduced *after* the rainbow.

I just learned about Eşref Armağan, a Turkish painter who was born blind. So apparently at least some fully blind people visualize more than my partially blind father thought! :)
Profile Image for Rachel Saum.
56 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2020
The black book of colors is a picture book that talks about colors and from the perspective of someone who is blind. On each page there is a different color and how it is apart of nature, and describing it. Each page is black, and has a translation into braille above the words, then the other page has a texturized picture in black that shows water, strawberries or different ways to illustrate what the page says. I think this book brings awareness to blindness and how colors are so important to sighted people and taken for granted. I did like this story, but I felt it would be nice to know who "Thomas" is, or being able to empathize with an actual character. Also, I found it interesting that this book was translated from Spanish into English, which usually it is the other way around. In the back of the book there is the braille alphabet for students to learn more about braille. I thought the texture of the illustrations were incredible and holding them up to light they have a glossy coat to make them stand out, since it is black illustrations on black paper.
Profile Image for kimberly_rose.
665 reviews30 followers
December 18, 2017
As a sighted adult with no young children, I'm not the target audience for this book, so it was only a very quick read, more a perusal.

It's important: the idea of bringing to children awareness and compassion for other children and adults in their lives who may experience the world in a way completely foreign from themselves.

Completely black pages, white font. Tangible embossed "colour" shapes and brief, sharply visual mental images are created by the simple yet effective words.

I could barely tell the difference between the various types of raised patterns. I think this would be a fun book to read with young children, perhaps getting them to guess the different colour feelings with their eyes closed as they use their fingers and minds to see.
Profile Image for Marissa Elera.
1,328 reviews31 followers
January 5, 2012
What a brilliant way to challenge young readers to become more in tune with their senses and simultaneously include visually impaired readers in ways many materials do not. I was delighted by the book's Braille features and raised illustrations, and tested myself on figuring out what they were with my eyes closed.

Cottin brings in flavors and smells and a host of sensory experiences that illustrate color in ways I seldom see in children's books.

This would not function well as a storytime text, but would be wonderful to share one on one with a child next to you on the couch.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,660 reviews83 followers
April 5, 2011
What a neat book. The Black Book of Colors can equally be enjoyed by both the sighted and visually impaired. The illustrations are done in raised, clear ink on completely black pages. The text appears in both print and Braille.

Sighted children can get some insight on how a blind person navigates his or her world. Colors are described as tastes, smells, and textures. A variety of interesting objects—strawberries, rain, feathers—are represented in the raised illustrations.
Profile Image for Lauren Hall.
36 reviews
February 17, 2020
This book was very different than what I have read so far. It was interesting to read about how a blind person hears about the things that I see and take for granted each day. This story would be good for any elementary age but I think you would have to explain the book and give some background on it before you put it into your classroom library. Because of this, I would recommend that this book be a read aloud.
Profile Image for Glenda.
622 reviews41 followers
December 1, 2014
Found this at NCTE 2014 and could not resist. What a fabulous book about life w/ out sight and how those who cannot see do through metaphor and braille. Love it.

Of course, the book has a very personal connection for me because, as those who know me have heard repeatedly, my father lost his sight when I was a child.
Profile Image for Beth Tabler.
Author 5 books152 followers
February 5, 2019
This is one of those children's books that touch your heart. It doesn't matter if you are young or old, close your eyes and you will be transported because of the beauty of the words. This is truly a beautiful book.
Profile Image for N.
910 reviews13 followers
March 2, 2009
That did not feel like brown. AT ALL.
Profile Image for pi.
213 reviews42 followers
June 10, 2017
Muero de amor con este libro tan bonito <3
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