Well, fellow MBE book-o-philes, I picked a challenge for my own first book to review... The Black Book of Colors.
I won't even try to write something punny or insightful.... damnit, I can't help myself... so instead I'll procrastinate. And while I try to figure out my reaction to this book - with a subject I feel rather unqualified to write about - I will share with you, in run-on sentences, how I came to this MBE scene with all ye good MBE bloggers...
I'm going to put it out there right now that all of my terrible puns are a direct and bad, bad influence of the excellent paronomasiac, Nathan Baker, with whom I and 30 other eager, fledgling Creative Book Publishing students just spent an intensive 4 months this summer submerged in books, book workings, book makings, book haggling, book legal stuff, book celebrities, and a fantastic host of industry leaders past and present brought together by ex-Penguin president, Cynthia Good, at Humber's beautiful Lakeshore campus.
This is where I first heard about our own Lex here at Mini Book Expo, and since that first meeting (in which the poor woman found out she had a volunteer completely new to bloggers and blogging to whom she was going to have to teach everything), we've been having fabulous monthly chitchats at net-equipped lunch places!
And here I am, now ready to give you my opinion of another subject with which I am not familiar, books for/about the blind... enjoy:
Just imagine never seeing colour. Imagine having no concept of what colour is. Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria have developed a book called The Black Book of Colours, translated from Spanish and published by Groundwood and Anansi.
For sighted people, it "endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his of her sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing", and it has received global praise for its innovative approach. So the text and the braille attempt to describe colour through these senses, attributing specific qualities of things the blind can know to a quality that can only be seen. A braille alphabet follows as end matter so the reader can feel what it's like to read the bumps on the paper. There is one sentence per page, usually starting with, "Thomas says...", implying to me that Thomas is a sighted person, or that Thomas has been told by a sighted person that a certain colour is like a certain experience.
The raised, all-black "pictures" attempt to feel like some of the nouns the text describes; for instance, "Thomas says that blue is the color of the sky when kites are flying and the sun is beating hot on his head" is illustrated with a raised line drawing of an airborne kite. While I liked the idea that the feeling of the sunny day could help describe blue, the 2D line drawing certainly brought it home to me that if you've never seen a kite flying, it is difficult to "get" it by only feeling it on paper.
Of course, I think it's important to get people of any age thinking about how others experience the world, about how sometimes we take for granted what we've always had, but there is a part of me that wonders if someone who has never -- and will never -- see colour would really care about colour.
If it isn't, and will never be a part of their realities, should we feel it necessary to make them understand it by subjectively equating it with other sensory experiences? This particular point came up for me when, over another lunch with our Lex, she read the line,
"He says that green tastes like lemon ice cream and smells like grass that's just been cut."
While she totally agreed with the text, saying that when she thought of the colour green, lemon ice cream came to mind, I fully disagreed!
So here's a question; if indeed, a blind person cared to understand the concept of colour, wouldn't it be more confusing when 2 sighted people can't even agree on it?
And I am not sure how comfortable I would feel to tell someone that, "Brown crunches under his feet like fall leaves. Sometimes it smells like chocolate and other times it stinks."
I doubt that I would want to forever attribute the delightful smell of chocolate to the stench of a recently used bathroom, would you?
If this is a book for sighted kids to get them thinking about different realities, I get it, and I like it, and if this is a book that a blind child may pick up to try to understand the concept of colour, good luck!
The way I feel about this book is dependant on its potential audience, but regardless, I like that it made me ask all of these questions...