THE BLACK BOOK OF COLORS

“Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them”—but he can’t see them, and this innovative picture book gives sighted children a sense of what that must be like. Color by color, readers learn yellow (“tastes like mustard”), red (“hurts when he finds it on his scraped knee”), brown (“crunches under his feet like fall leaves”) and so on, but all they’ll see is black. Each all-black double-page spread is devoted to one color, the left-hand page containing the simple, sensuous text rendered both in a clear, white typeface and in raised Braille letters, and the right illustrating one of the objects described with embossed lines that force readers to encounter them tactilely rather than visually. The shock readers feel will give way to wonder as they lose themselves in sightlessness and imagine the richness of Thomas’s world: “Black is the king of all colors. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face.” Fascinating, challenging and lovely. (Picture book. 5 & up)

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-88899-873-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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For all its brevity, chockablock with philosophical topics to ponder and debate.

SQUARE

From the Shape Trilogy series

In the wake of Triangle (2017), a further raft of ontological posers in stripped-down geometric garb.

Square, an unreflective sort, regards hauling large cubes of rock from the depths of his secret cave to a hilltop every day as his “work.” He is set to a new task, though, after Circle praises him as a “sculptor” and a “genius,” then commissions a portrait. Cluelessly setting to with a hammer and chisel to carve a “perfect” representation of Circle from a stone block, Square is left at the end of the day in the middle of a ring of rubble. Despairingly, he falls asleep as rain begins to fall. Next morning the despair is still there—so when Circle floats up and sees her reflection in the puddle that’s accumulated overnight her response is unexpected: “It is perfect,” she says. “You are a genius.” Barnett’s closing “But was he really?” leaves readers (those who have the appropriate patience and experience, anyway) to judge for themselves. Square’s downcast eyes as he looks at his own reflection in the puddle heighten the ambiguity. With typically deceptive minimalism Klassen places a few flat, blocky shapes on the white pages to suggest the physical landscape, angling Square’s body and glance to convey the emotional one. Humor is in the details: a bit of twig that catches on harried Square’s head and stays there; the shadow that appears beneath Circle as she floats along through the air.

For all its brevity, chockablock with philosophical topics to ponder and debate. (Picture book. 10-adult)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9607-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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