Today I’m going to tickle your senses with the wonderful and unique The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria. Originally published in Spanish, my copy has been translated by Elisa Amado and produced in Canada by Groundwood Books and House of Anansi Press.
While, this book is technically very sophisticated and conceptually fascinating, the story is simple so that it can evoke your senses without too many words. The text follows Thomas as he experiences “colour” in various incidents. The focus is on the tactile, teaching those of us who can see how to look with the sense of touch. The words help too, they are honed to the point where they evoke the very essence of the colour in all of your senses. For instance:
Red is sour like unripe strawberries and as sweet as watermelon.
It hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee.
This book is strikingly different from other picturebooks in that, technically, there are no pictures. However, it is incredibly visually pleasing, the sleek black pages with their embossed images shine when the light hits them. Each two-page spread contains a line or two of text in white font, the braille for that line, and then an embossed image. The braille appears at the top of each page, it is the first thing that we see and therefore touch – it meant to, perhaps give the illusion that this text is really for blind people, but also it draws attention to the many ways that communication can happen in our world.
But black is the king of all the colours. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls on his face.
There is a Braille alphabet at the very end of the book so you can learn how to read with your fingers and giving the reader the chance to experience this text again without their eyes open.