Adventures in Reading: The Black Book of Colors

The Black Book of Colors is an amazing, award-winning, twin-vision book written by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faria, and translated by Elisa Amado.  It’s laid out like a children’s book, with the story on the left page and a tactile illustration on the right page.  It’s designed to be a twin-vision book that helps you understand what it might be like to be blind and trying to understand color:  each and every page is pitch black.  Even the illustrations are black.  The only variation is the white of the text at the bottom of each left-hand page.

As wonderful as the book is, however, I absolutely would not recommend it for sharing with your B/VI child.  In my opinion, this book is designed to show you how someone who cannot see may perceive the beauty in the world; it’s a book to help show adults that being blind doesn’t make life less beautiful.

photo (2)Although it’s formatted as a children’s book, it’s not a book designed for children.  The braille is far away from the print on the left-hand pages, and it’s really “light” braille–it’s hard for me to feel that the bumps are there at all.  I’m inclined to call it the braille equivalent of small print.  It’s definitely not appropriate for an early braille reader.

I tried to get glare in the photo above so you could see the braille and get an idea of the illustration.  The illustrations are done in a glossy black slightly raised print on black pages:  aside from the white print, this is absolutely a black book of colors.  The illustrations are fun for me to feel, and, frankly, to tilt the book to look at, but they’re not interesting for my son.  Since he has some vision, he does better with high-contrast–and black on black is about as low-contrast as you can get.

A relative bought this book for us when we first discovered Peanut’s vision problems, and I very much appreciate the thought.  I can absolutely understand why someone might think this would be a good book to buy:  it’s award-winning!  It has braille!  It has tactile illustrations!!  It seems like a no-brainer.

As I’ve learned more about twin-vision books, braille and tactile illustrations, however, I’ve learned that what seems like a no-brainer really has no brain.  Most tactile illustrations are more tactile, for lack of a better term:  these are beautiful, but smooth and not as raised from the paper as most tactile illustrations intended for B/VI kids are.  The braille isn’t raised enough for little fingers to be able to read it; in fact, I’ve never encountered braille this smooth, again for lack of a better term, in any of the materials I’ve gotten in braille, including materials intended for adults.  I think this is a book for adults and for those with delicate fingers; it’s definitely not right for kids.

Although it seems like an obvious choice, and it is a well-done book, I would not recommend The Black Book of Colors for young braille readers and their parents.  This might be a better one to share with fellow adults.  I did enjoy it, and I’ll keep it on our shelf, but I don’t think I’ll try it with Peanut again until he’s much older.

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