One of my many publishing goals is to have picture books with Braille so blind loved ones can read to children. There’s simply nothing so blissful as reading to a child on your lap. A friend of mind suggested I check out The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria. I am astounded by how simplistic, yet complex this beautiful book is.
Picture books are a useful tool in introducing topics to children. The concept of blindness and the ability for a blind person to read with Braille may be a difficult topic to approach with a child that doesn’t have any exposure. This picture book and others like it open a way to have some great discussions about disabilities, syndromes, and other reasons why someone the child may meet one day (or perhaps someone they have already met) needs a different kind of care.
The goal of these conversations would be to instill an awareness in young minds that not everyone is the same, and then foster that awareness into a respect for all children, regardless of their differences. If you are following me, you will then see how this could lower the amount of bullying children with special needs face. Am I making a giant leap and stretching this too thin? I don’t think so. I have no studies to back this up, but I also don’t see a down side to trying.
As you can see, the pages are indeed black with small white
font. There is Braille above the text on the left page and a raised “picture” on the right, which you can sort of see the strawberries here in this picture.
It begins, “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 hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee” and so on (pages 1 and 2). The concepts are wonderful. It’s a playful, creative way to think about colors with your other senses.
Growing up with three legally-blind sisters, I was always astounded at how sharp their other senses were. As we would wait outside for our mom to pick us up from school one would announce, “Mom’s here!” long before her van could be seen turning the corner. I also remember my older sister won a class contest where the students had to put in order the shapes they felt inside a paper bag. She said to her it was the easiest thing in the world, yet so many others could not fathom how she could constantly get the order right, no matter how many times they changed it.
Therefore, another reason this book is a delightful way either to introduce or to explain the concept of blindness is because it is not at all focused on the blindness. In fact, the author never tells us Thomas is blind. The author focuses on the beauty of the other senses and how unique Thomas’ descriptions are. We do not pity him, because he is not missing out: “Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them” (page 20).
The child gets the added bonus of feeling the Braille and the upraised picture. And, on the very last page, there is a Braille alphabet. Hooray! Learning tools. That made me so happy to see. So have fun with this book, play games with your child that challenges them to use their other senses. Make it a learning experience, and from that will grow a respect and empathy for others that just may shape into an incredible future!