The Black Book of Colors offers a rare opportunity to experience reading in a completely different way.

The Black Book of Colors

Picture Book

Ages 3 and Up

Written by Menena Cottin

Illustrated by Rosana Faria

Translated by Elisa Amado

24 pages

Groundwood Books



Consider for a moment trying to describe a color, any color, to a person who is blind, a person who has never had sight. One might employ descriptors for sound, touch, and taste to give as broad an explanation as possible. This fascinating book takes on that difficult task, and does so beautifully.

The Black Book of Colors was created to give sighted people a glimpse into the world of a non-sighted person. The expressive text is shown in white type against a black background and vividly describes several colors. Above the printed text the same words are spelled out in braille. A tactile writing system for the blind, the letters are created with raised dots. The back page features the entire braille alphabet.

To encourage the reader to view the book with their hands, the illustrations are created in relief. The raised, black images are set against a black background. Though black on black, the images can clearly be seen—the art is glossy while the page is matte.

I photographed these pages at an angle to demonstrate the effect.

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

The letter-by-letter braille translation appears above the white, typed text. The start of a braille sentence is indicated by a single dot. Three dots creating an upper right corner mark the end of a sentence. On the entirely black page opposite the text, thirteen black feathers, of varying sizes, softly blow by.

Red can hurt, like a scraped knee. Brown might sound like crunching leaves and sometimes smells like chocolate. Green tastes like lemon ice and smells like fresh cut grass. Black, soft as silk, is the king of colors.

This innovative book offers children and adults a unique exercise in abstract thought, and a rare opportunity to experience reading in a completely different way.


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54 Responses so far

  1. 1

    periwinkleparadise said,

    Reblogged this on In the Garden of Eatin'.

  2. 3

    Suzette said,

    Cool. Thanks for posting this, it’s really cool! What an original concept.

  3. 5

    Oh my goodness, this looks amazing! What a wonderful way to literally get into another person’s point of view and world. Synesthesia at its finest, too! Can’t wait to check out your other reviews. Looks like you have some great recommendations here. 🙂

  4. 6

    lesliesholly said,

    Wow. That is incredibly creative. I have often wondered at the challenge of describing things to a non-sighted person, or even being able to explain what we mean by “seeing” something to someone who never has.

  5. 7

    trishkj said,

    I blogged about this blog post. Thanks!

  6. 9

    When my friend told me about this, I went to the bookstore and read it there and then.

  7. 10

    andrajean said,

    Amazing concept for a book! I have no sense of smell, so people are always trying to describe smells with words to me and I imagine this book being something of the same ilk for the sense of sight. Thank you for liking my post; I never would have found you otherwise!

  8. 11

    I think that I just found my new favourite blog!

  9. 13

    Very interesting! This kind of sounds like synesthesia, in a way, which is something I have myself, so I can relate. I like this type of description, and the tactile illustrations too. What an extremely inventive book! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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