'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 16 April 2018

Review: The Colours of History

Where would we be without colour? It's what often makes something appealing. That's especially so with picture books where the colours, or lack of them, can be crucial to the telling of the story.

The Colours of History: How Colours Shaped the World, offers an unusual perspective, exploring how colour has been used through history and in relation to culture.

I loved this book which is divided into sections by colour: yellows, reds, purples, greens, and blues.

Each section begins with a summary of how colour is represented or expressed (blue as calm, lucky etc).

There's also a panel of selected colour shades, then facts, anecdotes, and illustrations that place them in historical context.

One example is orange, which is part of the yelllow section. It was used by Ancient Egyptians for painting, and for many years did not have a name.

Much later it became associated with the Dutch culture (heavily used in paintings, and in the 'breeding' of orange carrots). In the Netherlands there is even a national holiday which has an activity called Oranjegekte, which translates to 'orange madness'.

In addition to the colours, also included are Kohl Black and Graphite (used for communication and as beauty enhancers), and Lime and Lead White (most commonly used in building).

Given the subject matter, the illustrations are a crucial part of this book. Artist Marc-Etienne Peintre has applied his unique style to Clive Gifford's text, and both work really well in sharing how colour has played such an important role in history. The use of colour also makes the book feel like a rainbow of sorts.

As you work your way through The Colours of History you'll uncover lots of fascinating information. Such as that about orchil, the poor man's purple. Ancient Romans used lichen on rocks to make an orchil dye for their clothes. Hundreds of years later Scottish lichen was used in a similar way until it ran out.

Whether you love vermillion, or prefer ultramarine, after reading The Colours of History you may be inspired to take up a paintbrush, and you will certainly understand colours better.

Title: The Colours of History: How Colours Shaped the World
Author: Clive Gifford
Illustrator: Marc-Etienne Peintre
Publisher: Quarto UK, $19.99
Publication Date: April 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781784939670
For ages: 8 - 12 year olds
Type: Junior non-fiction