The Black Book of Colors

blackbookThe Black Book of Colors

Menena Cottin, Author

Rosana Faria, Illustrator

Elisa Amado, Translator

Groundwood Books, Fiction, 2008

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes: Experiencing what it’s like to be blind, Exploring senses

Opening: “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers…Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.”

Book Jacket Synopsis: It is very hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind. This groundbreaking, award-winning book endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his or her sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing.

Why I like this book: Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria’s have teamed up to create an extraordinary book for sighted children to help them experience what it is like to be blind and depend upon their senses. The entire book is on black paper. The pages on the left have white text at the bottom where Thomas describes a color using his senses and beautiful imagery. There is Braille at the top of the page which helps a sighted child to imagine what it is like to read by touch.  On the corresponding pages the illustrations are elegant and delicate raised black line drawings which are meant to be revealed by the touch of finger tips. This book is a masterpiece that teaches children how to describe colors by using all of their senses. The book is not intended for visually impaired children.

Resources: I would use this book to discuss visual impairments. The book alone is a resource. It asks readers to be blind. It a remarkable way for children to experience the world through touch, smell, taste and sound. At the end of the book is a raised braille alphabet.  Activity: Create a class book of colors and ask children to draw a picture of something that represents a color and write a sense that corresponds to their picture.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Erik the Red Sees Green

Erik the Red9781480453845_p0_v1_s260x420Erik the Red Sees Green

Julie Anderson, Author

David Lopez, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, Oct. 15, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 2-7

Themes: Color Blindness, School, Friendship, Teamwork

Opening: “Erik the Red was a wonderful kid. Ask anyone. He wondered if fish got thirsty. He wondered why he couldn’t tickle himself…Sometimes he wondered what life would be like without a nickname, but from the day he was born he was Erik the Red.”

Synopsis: At school, everything seems to be going wrong for Erik.  In soccer, he kicks the ball to the wrong team. In class he messes up his reading homework and misses half the math problems written on the board. Erik is teased in art class when he draws a self-portrait and paints his own hair green. A trip to the doctor confirmed that Erik’s painting isn’t wrong — he is color blind.

What a like about this book: Julie Anderson’s book is an uplifting story about a strong and self-confident boy  who seems to do everything wrong, but doesn’t know why. Once he understands his visual issues, he takes charge and talks to his class about his color blindness and invites them to ask questions. Erik sees colors, but just differently. He says, “I like to think I am color vision quirky!” Because his color deficiency is diagnosed, his teacher makes black-and-white copies of math assignments. His parents and friends jump in with other solutions to help Erik in a positive way.  This is an excellent story about everyone working together to help Erik. Even young children will understand the language. David Lopez’s illustrations are colorful and create a happy atmosphere for Erik.

Resources:  The author has included a double-page spread of information about color vision deficiency. The book is a great resource for parents, teachers and children. Visit the Color Blind Awareness website, where you can actually experience color deficiency and learn about why it effects more men then women.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

Dog Called Homeless9780062122209_p0_v2_s260x420A Dog Called Homeless

Sarah Lean

Katherine Tegen Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Death of Parent, Grief, Dog, Hearing and Visual Impairment, Single-parent family

Awards: The 2013 Schneider Family Middle School Book Award

Book Jacket Synopsis:  When Cally Fisher says she sees her dead mother, no one believers her.  The only other living soul who sees Cally’s mom is a mysterious wolfhound who always seems to be there when her mom appears.  And when Cally stops talking — what’s the point if no one is listening — how will she convince anyone that her mom is still with them or persuade her dad that the huge silver-gray dog is their last link with her.

Why I like this book:  Sarah Lean has written a very sensitive and moving story about a girl dealing with the death of her mother.  She writes with a very clear, natural and empathetic voice.  Her story is about hope, friendship, determination and courage.  Her plot is strong with an unexpected twist at the end.  Lean does an outstanding job of developing the heart and soul of her characters.  When Cally stops talking for 31 days, this determined girl has her reasons.  She wants to remember and talk about her mother, who died in a car accident.  But her father wants to forget and move on.  Cally makes herself heard through her silence in a very unusual way.  Dog lovers will cheer for the wolfhound Homeless, who is very loveable.  This is a beautiful story for any child who has lost a loved one.   You may visit Sarah Lean at her website.

Jacob’s Eye Patch

Jacob's Eye Patch9781476737324_p0_v3_s260x420Jacob’s Eye Patch

Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, Authors

Jules Feiffer, Illustrator

Simon & Schuster, Fiction, Sept. 24, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Wearing an eye patch, Curiosity, Feeling different

OpeningJacob and his mom were on their way to the science store to buy the most amazing thing ever — a light-up globe. “

Book Synopsis:  Jacob is in a hurry — a really big hurry — to get to the store and buy the toy he’s always wanted.  Along the way, people keep slowing him down to ask him questions about his eye patch.  It’s natural to have questions when some one looks different…but do they have to ask right now?

Why I love this book:  I wore an eye patch as a child and I love sharing this upbeat and winning book!  Beth Kobliner Shaw co-authored the book with her nine-year-old son, Jacob.  They wrote a charming, funny and encouraging story to show that every one has something that makes them unique.  This will be a welcomed and very helpful book for the many children who wear eye patches to strengthen an eye.  You have to admire Jacob’s courage and strength as he’s not going to let his eye patch get in his way of getting to the science store before it closes.  Yes, Jacob understands people are curious about why he’s wearing and eye patch, and normally he doesn’t mind answering their questions. But he’s on a mission and there are too many amusing  obstacles that get in his way.  You’ll find yourself cheering for Jacob!  Jules Feiffer’s illustrations are lively and bold.  The artwork is done in pen and watercolor and convey Jacob’s urgency and frustration to get to the store!  It is an excellent book to use with kids to teach them about differences.

A special thank you to my friend and colleague, Beth Stilborn, who writes the blog By Word of Beth.  She recommended this book to me for review.

Resources:  There are author notes at the end from Beth and Jacob.  For more fun, visit the Jacob’s Eye Patch link where you can find resources, an activity kit and tip sheet .

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller

Doreen Rappaport, author

Matt Tavares, illustrator

Disney Hyperion Books, Biography, Oct. 16, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 6 and up

Themes: Deafblind people, Sign language, Braille, Courage, Wisdom

Opening/Synopsis:  “Helen gurgled and giggled in her crib.  At six months, she crawled and  said, ‘How-d’ye,’ and ‘wah-wah’ for water.  When she was one, she ran after a ray of sunshine.  She loved the mockingbird’s song and the sweet smell of climbing roses.  But best of all was being on her father’s lap and in her mother’s arms.”   When Helen was 19 months old, an illness took away her sight and speech.  She was surrounded by silence and darkness.  Helen tried to make up signs to communicate with her parents.  But her failure to make them understand turned into outbursts.  Annie Sullivan came to work with Helen when she was seven years old.  Helen learned sign language quickly and was considered a genius.  Annie taught her Braille so she could read books.  She learned to write with a pencil, read lips, speak, and to experience the world with enthusiasm.  Helen graduated from college with honors.  Helen’s journey out of darkness led to freedom and she taught people how very large her world was.

Why I like this book:  The title says it all “Helen’s Big World,”which is rich, full of life and not limited in any way.  This is an excellent introduction for young readers to learn about this most remarkable woman.  Doreen Rappaport beautifully captures the essence of this very inspirational child and woman, Helen Keller.  It is written in prose with quotes from Helen woven into the story on every page.  The book not only chronicles the story of Helen’s challenging and courageous life, but shows children how one can move beyond physical limitations, find their own gifts and change the world for the better.  The book is large and Matt Tavares’ illustrations are bold, colorful, emotional and lively.  The illustrator emphasizes what Helen can do.  This book is a feast for the soul.  Adults will also enjoy reading this treasure.  I love that the book title is also printed in braille on the front cover.

Favorite Quotes:  “We do not think with eyes and ears, and our capacity for thought is not measured by five senses.”

“The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.”

“I have the advantage of a mind trained to think, and that is the difference between myself and most people, not my blindness and their sight.”

Resources:  The book alone is a great resource.  There are back pages of resources and materials, as well as a page of the manual alphabet chart Annie Sullivan used with Helen.   The American Foundation for the Blind has great resources or kids and teachers, especially if you scroll down and click on the Braille Bug link.  Check out author Doreen Rappaport’s website.  This is an excellent book for the classroom.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

GreenBean: True Blue Family

GreenBean180801648GreenBean:  True Blue Family

Elizabeth Blake, author and illustrator

Nisse Press, LLC, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Themes:  Adoption, Different Families,  Identity, Visual Impairment

Opening/Synopsis:   “Oh No! Green Bean thought.  Maybe I don’t belong in this family.  I am green.  They are blue.”  GreenBean one days realizes that she doesn’t look like the other members of her family.    She has long ears and they have short ears.  She frets about all the differences and compares herself to her friend Anna who is the same color as her family.   It isn’t until GreenBean’s blind brother is surprised by her statement and offers her a new perspective of family.  GreenBean begins to see the diversity among her friends.  And, she learns that being loved and accepted by her blue family is what counts.

What I like about this book:  This is the first book written and illustrated by Elizabeth Blake.   The language is simply written as are her bold and colorful illustrations.   Both my children are adopted and struggled with identity issues and feeling different.  I would have welcomed her book.  In today’s world, there are many different kinds of families — divorced, single-parent, foster, mixed multicultural and ethnic, and gay families.  Blake’s excellent book  helps children understand diversity is part of who we are globally.   Otherwise we’d be pretty boring.   Blake’s credits her blind brother  “who taught her that sight is not necessary for insight.”   He has been inspiration to her in learning about uniqueness and differences.  Visit Elizabeth Blake at her website.

This book has been provided to me free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review of the work. 

Reaching for Rainbows – A uTales e-Book

Reaching for Rainbows

Nessa Morris, Author

Caroline Lee, Illustrator

uTales eBook, May 2012, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 3 and up

Themes: Rainbows, Blind, Visual Impairment, Friendship

Opening “A rainbow,” said Betsy.  “It’s so beautiful.  “Where?  I want to hold it,” said Amelia, who is blind.   Betsy sees a rainbow and describes it to her friend, Amelia.  Amelia wants to touch the rainbow, but Betsy tells her that no one can touch a rainbow because it is just colors.  But, through a surprising twist, Amelia teaches Betsy that you can touch, smell, taste and feel colors in a way Betsy has always taken for granted.

Why I like this book:  Nessa Morris has written a charming book with an inspiring message about a visually impaired girl who teaches her friend how to “see” in her world.  I love this theme!  Nessa’s book will certainly encourage children to think and see in a new way.  Very clever ending.  Kudos to the author.  As you can tell from the cover, Caroline Lee’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  Each illustration is simply beautiful and draws the child into the story.

Nessa Morris is the director of a library that serves people with visual impairments. Before becoming a library director, one of Nessa’s favorite jobs was being a children’s librarian.  As the “Storytime Princess,” she enjoyed introducing puppetry to children. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.   You can reach her by clicking on her website.

What prompted  you to write about a visually-impaired child?

[N] I work with people who have visual impairments.  I also write stories for children.  Combining the two was natural.  After I realized that there weren’t too many book with visually-impaired children as main characters, I just knew I had to write this story.

Did the rainbow idea come first, or a child who was blind?

[N] The idea of a color-concept story with a visually-impaired main character appealed to me, because the two don’t necessarily seem to go together.  The rainbow came about because it’s the ultimate way to combine colors and yet it’s also difficult to describe on a physical basis since it has no substance.  I tried to think of how I would describe it in detail.  The story just flowed from there.

What was your experience like working with uTales?

[N] I found out about uTales through a member of my critique group.  Sandra Hershenson, who had published her story Annie & Me.  After seeing her story, I felt that Reaching for Rainbows would be a good fit with uTales.  I signed up for a free trial, and read several stories.  Once I was sure that uTales was the route I wanted to take, I pitched the idea to the uTales collaboration group on Facebook.  Caroline Lee was interested in illustrating the story.  She showed me a few of her illustrations, and we agreed to work together.  Caroline did some rough sketches of her ideas.  After we agreed that the story was on the right track, she colored the illustrations, and Reaching for Rainbows truly began to take shape.  Caroline’s illustrations made the rainbow come to life in a tangible way.  Also, the rainbow belonged to both Amelia and Betsy.   I loved the idea that no one can reach a rainbow, but everyone can find a way to hold a rainbow in their heart.  After a bit of minor tweaking, the story was submitted to the uTales editorial panel.  It was accepted and published within a few days after submission.

How has the experienced helped you as an author?  Would you recommend other authors publish on uTales?

As a new author, it’s great to see my work come to life.  The best part is being able to read the story with my three-year-old daughter.  She loves flipping through and “reading” the colors to me.   Publishing on uTales is a much quicker process than with a traditional publisher.  You have the benefit of working one-on-one with an illustrator and the two of you set the pace.  Creating a book with uTales also means that you have greater artistic control over your work than you would have with a traditional publisher.  Since uTales uses an editorial panel, the finished book will be a quality product.  I would definitely recommend that other authors take advantage of the uTales free trial period, review the books and decide whether they feel that uTales publishing is right for them.

About uTales eBooks:   Click here to learn more about uTales children’s ebooks and to sign up for a free trial.  uTales was initiated by Swedish businessman, Nils von Heijne.  Emma Dryden, of drydenbks, oversees the Editorial Quality uTales Panel.  Authors and Illustrators are from all over the world and  form a unique community.