Thursday, December 8, 2011

Colourful metaphor

Reading the title and looking at the cover of The Sound of Colors: a journey of the imagination by Jimmy  Liao (823 J5635S PIC BK), my first thought was “looks like this might be an interesting one to recommend for the science unit, ‘The Senses’, with connections to art.” Great.
Well, maybe.

This book has a lot more going on than an interesting way to explore the senses or colours.   (Think Black book of colors by Menena Cottin (535.6 COB 2008 PIC BK)).   
After I finished reading it, I kept thinking it reminded me of another book and realized it was Stormy Night by Michele Lemieux (823 L543S PIC BK).  In Stormy Night a little girl lies in her bed at night asking all the big (and small and silly and profound) questions about life. 
Then I read The Sound of Colors again and it started to evoke some of the same feelings I had when I read The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan (823 T155L PIC BK) about a boy finding a very peculiar object that few others can even see, especially adults, and trying to find the proper place to take it. Along the way he questions how things get lost and why it is that older people can’t see all these ‘lost’ objects.

But don’t get me wrong -- The Sound of Colors is unique.  A girl/young woman, who has recently lost her sight, takes us along with her as she travels on the subway.  Instead of her blindness limiting her, it allows her imagination to soar.  Subway stations are filled with color and interesting people, monsters or storybook characters. The subway stops in surreal landscapes -- under the sea with dolphins and fishes, high in the sky into clouds, a forest filled with fallen golden leaves and so on.   Sometimes she describes the sensations she experiences (very poetically, too) and asks questions that I think pertain more to life’s journey than it does to her trip.
            Trains rumble and clank and rush past me.
            Which is the right one?  It’s easy to get lost underground.
            I wonder where I am and where I’m going,
            and if I’m getting closer to what I’m searching for.
            A little boy asks me how to get home.
            “I’m looking, too,” I tell him.
The illustrations are brightly coloured and playfully draw the reader in, as we accompany the protagonist on her unnamed quest.

Who would I recommend this for?  I think using this book with older students (grades 7 and up) would be great for discussion about metaphor and similes.  I don’t think this will be first book I'll recommend for elementary students doing units about the senses.  But I’m left wondering what the kids at Nellie McClung Elementary School would make of this book.  In case you missed my blogs written this pass summer, this was a school working with the theme of ‘journey’ for all grades, kindergarten to grade 6.  Teaching to this theme, I’m confident the teachers from Nellie would make the most of it, allowing their students to access the journey this girl has undertaken.


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