‘Colour speaks for itself better than words can- you can feel colour, and it goes straight into your heart’.
Despite saying as The Colour Book begins – ‘ I would rather not have written any words at all’ – the author’s conversational writing connects well with the reader’s needs as she takes us on an exhilarating colour dance. The first chapter, ‘The Land of Childhood’, links our attitude to different colours with memories and feelings. In her own case, pink makes her taste again the sweets she bought when a school child which made her tongue pink, and green always awakens a snapshot of her father relaxing on the family lawn. Later chapters cover such practicalities as applying the principles of colour mixing and using colour to achieve contrast or harmony. It is the combination of the practical and the poetic which gives this book its distinctive character. Not only does it inform about colour and show its huge potential for helping young readers to see the world in new ways, it also offers the practical support to help them ‘begin their own colour dance’.
Inspiration, she suggests, can be drawn from the natural world, ‘the forest of colour’, with its many hues and from the rich source of objects in different shades of the same colour. For example a selection of leaves, mosses, stems and grasses, carefully arranged, would create a medley of the colour green. Younger children would find collecting such ‘restricted palette’ items from the outdoors and placing them in transparent envelopes for contemplation, discussion and annotated display an engrossing experience. And this exercise is sure to increase sensitivity to subtle colour variations.
The world of the imagination, also a treasure store of ideas for reflection and activity, threads through the book. Chapter 2, for instance, stars ‘colour characters’ including ‘The Yellow Bird of Paradise’, ‘The White Angel’ and ‘The Black Lion’. Musing on these may affect in exciting ways how children construe the language of colour and help them to use these insights to enhance their own creations. A spot of red in a picture lets in ‘The Red Dragon’, a mythical creature with hot blood, warming itself next to a fire. His diet? He eats ‘pomegranates, strawberries and – yes – tomatoes!’ An earlier book by this author shows her to be an expert on bookmaking, so it is not a surprise that at the end of the colour journey she gives detailed instructions for making a book to display colour experiments and art work; the beauty of this one is that pages can be added as new ideas present themselves. But busy teachers might prefer to buy a large book to display the work of a whole class or provide smaller ones for each of the children. Experiences, memories and feelings about different colours could be shared as well as children’s artwork. Although the author does not say so, I believe their poems and stories would have a place too. In short, this book provides an excellent resource for teachers and children in the early secondary school and a good introduction to using colour, with some teacher input, for children in the primary school.