Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Review: Wave and The Black Book of Colors

Wave, by Suzy Lee, is a wordless picture book that perfectly portrays a summer interlude on a beach. Using only charcoal pencil and blue acrylic, Lee deftly unfurls the interplay between a small girl, a big ocean, and five curious seagulls. By turns playful, taunting, intimidating and joyful, girl and wave chase each other back and forth between land on the left-hand page, and sea on the right. Lee's illustrations manage to capture both the motion and emotion of this lovely dance between a child and the natural world. Probably best enjoyed one-on-one or with a small group of young children, this book will generate LOTS of language - which is the beauty inherent in wordless books.

Another book sure to create language opportunities is The Black Book of Colors, by Menena Cottin, illustrations by Rosana Faria. First published in Mexico, this beautifully designed award-winning book was created with the intention of giving sighted children some insight into how people with blindness experience color. Told from the perspective of a child named Thomas, color is defined in sensory terms: "Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick's feathers". Other colors are explored by the way they sound and smell. Embossed black-on-black illustrations accompany the text, inviting the reader to discover each color by sense of touch. Braille text runs along the top of each page of printed text, which leads to my only point of contention with this book: other reviewers, both parents and educators of the blind, have stated that the braille in this story is not raised enough to be authentically readable. I think that that was an unfortunate misstep on the part of the publisher. It's sadly ironic that this book about the experience of blindness can't be fully experienced by blind children.
Beyond that, I think very young children will enjoy this book for the tactile experience, while older children will better be able to understand and explore the underlying concept: in a world of blackness, color is more than shades of light.

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