A child is given a box of crayons and an eraser and uses them to create a world of hope, joy, beauty and peace.
As you might expect from the title, this is a picture book filled with vibrant colour, both in the text and illustrations. An unnamed child sets about transforming his/her world with a simple box of crayons and an eraser … and a healthy dose of imagination and creativity.
Each page focuses on a new scene and a new colour. A perceived or actual negative, such as desert, darkness and war, is highlighted, then rubbed out and replaced with a new word and colourful illustration. So, boredom becomes children playing under a blue sky; drought ends with big silver drops of rain and open umbrellas; hunger is transformed into a lush green field of wheat.
The left-hand side of each spread is dominated by a full-page illustration. Illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi features many different characters of varying ages. They are simple figures with childlike features and beautifully patterned clothing. The backdrops are exquisite: flowers abound as do a range of simple and elaborate abstract design elements. I particularly like the way white is used to highlight additional details such as fish, wheat and flowers – it’s so effective against the block colour background.
On the surface, the prose is short and easy to read, but the content opens up a whole range of topics for discussion. My eldest daughter, Miss 5, was interested to find out more about the connection between hunger and wheat, for example. So, we stopped reading for a while to talk about how wheat is used to make bread for people to eat when they are hungry. We also had another interesting discussion about floods and drizzle. And it’s easy to stop and start throughout the book as each page can be enjoyed and explored as a self-contained section.
But read When I Coloured in the World in one go and you’ll experience the true strength of its core message. It is such an uplifting book, full of hope, joy, beauty and peace. This picture book takes the reader to a world where flowers bloom, people care about each other irrespective of age, lightbulbs brighten every corner, children play, dance and are filled with hope for life ahead. I would recommend it to readers of any age wherever they are.
When I Coloured in the World by Ahmadreza Ahmadi, illustrated by Ehsan Abdollahi, translated by Azita Rassi (first published in Persian in 2010 by Nazar Publisher; this edition, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017).
Ahmadreza Ahmadi is a highly acclaimed contemporary poet and screenwriter from Iran. He writes for both adults and children. He was nominated for a Hans Christian Andersen award in 2010.
Ehsan Abdollahi is a respected children’s book illustrator and lecturer at the Tehran University of Art, Iran. He has illustrated two picture books published by Tiny Owl, When I Coloured in the World and A Bottle of Happiness.
Azita Rassi translates from Persian into English. She has translated eight children’s titles for Tiny Owl. She lives in Malaysia.