PPBF: When I Coloured in the World

Last month, I celebrated my birthday & my son visited secondary school friends in London during his spring break. What does this have to do with Perfect Picture Book Friday? In my quest to feature authors, illustrators, books, and/or stories about regions affected by immigration bans or from regions affected by conflict or other disasters, I pre-ordered books available in the UK but not for sale in the US. I then sent my son to pick them up. Best birthday gift ever! I’m happy to share one of these gifts today as a Perfect Picture Book:
9781910328071-150x150Title: When I Coloured in the World
Written By: Ahmadreza Ahmadi
Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi
Translated By: Azita Razi (2015)
Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/2017 (first published in Persian, Nazar Publisher/2010)
Suitable for Ages: 3 and up
Themes/Topics: imagination, diverse books, creating positive change, Iranian author, power of art
My mum gave me a box of crayons for colouring, and an eraser to rub things out with. So guess what I did?
I rubbed out the word ‘desert.’
I wrote the word ‘roses’.
With my red crayon I made roses grow all over the world!
I gave the world red.
Brief Synopsis:
A child uses an eraser to rub out things she doesn’t like in the world, like hunger, and crayons and colored pencils to replace them with things that make the world better, like green wheat to feed people.
Links to Resources:

  • Draw a picture of something you don’t like. Think about how you can change the picture to make it something you like better;
  • Pick a few favorite colors. Draw things that make you happy or that you think will make life better or happier for others using your favorite colors;
  • Think of things that make you happy, sad or angry. What colors do you think of when you think of those things?
  • Discover more about Iran, where the author and illustrator live.

Why I Like this Book:
This is a deceptively simple book in which an unnamed child changes the world one word at a time through art. I think the simplicity and repetition will appeal to young children and empower them to believe that they can change things for the better, too. I also like that Ahmadi starts the book with a gift from mother to child, the gift of imagination and power to better the world.
Full-page illustrations with backgrounds the color of the child’s crayon choice and vibrant images appear on the left side of each spread with the accompanying words set poem-like on the right. This makes When I Coloured in the World appear to be a book of poetry, and, indeed, each spread can be read, and discussed, separately. I think this adds to the enjoyment and utility of this book. I can envision parents or teachers picking one of the negative terms, brainstorming with children words that are the opposite, and then discussing how that word can be illustrated and how change can occur.

A Note about Craft:
As mentioned above, When I Coloured in the World has no story arc, per se, and is essentially a series of free verse poems that show how the reimagining of a bad thing can turn it into good. While each poem can be read on its own, I like that they also work together through repetitive language and that they follow the same format. By doing this, I think Ahmadi helps his readers better envision a child imagining these changes and allows for readers to follow his example and replace a word with another in a color and with an explanation that follows the pattern.
I also like that he has used simple, neutral objects, eraser and crayons, to effect change. This is a wonderful reminder to children’s writers to keep it simple, and reminded me, in many ways, of Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot.
Find out more about the author, Ahmadreza Ahmadi, one of Iran’s “greatest and most famous contemporary poets”.
Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd , an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators.
While not currently available in US book shops, When I Coloured in the World is available through the Book Depository, which ships to the US.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

32 responses to “PPBF: When I Coloured in the World

  1. What a beautiful idea. Too bad this doesn’t work. We could take a photo and then erase what we didn’t like, color in what we would like to see and POOF! instant chango we have the world we want. Wonderful idea for kids and empowerment, especially kids affected by great changes.

    • I agree. I wish colors could better the world instantly, but we can’t underestimate the power of art to prevail. Or at least that’s my fervent hope. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. How I wish that magic eraser could really work. Imagine being able to erase the bad and replace it with good. I know I’m going to enjoy this book. And thank you for including such great art projects at the end. I’m thinking they would work well for poems, too.

  3. What a beautiful idea for a book, Patricia. TY for sharing these books w/us!

  4. Happy belated birthday, Patricia! Wish I had taken an extra suitcase with me when I went in January. I only purchased on children’s book, but I did visit quite a few bookstores! Enjoy your new stack!

  5. What a great opportunity for you to get some lovely new books. Julie always posts great European finds. Looking forward to your future reviews. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Joanne. I have a few more in the queue & I know there are a few amazing ones publishing soon that I’ll “self import.” Thanks for stopping by!

  6. What a unique and beautiful idea for a children’s book — helping a child re-imagine something bad can bring hope. I want to read this book. Thanks!

  7. Love this beautiful idea! Can’t wait to read it!

  8. Love this book. Thanks for finding a special nugget and featuring it.

  9. Oh, I love the premise of this book. Thinking how one child can make a difference, especially through some sort of artistic response. I also love the fact that the author and illustrator are from Iran. I’ll be putting this one on my TBR list. Thanks!

  10. What a beautiful idea. Pity it doesn’t work in the real world but then we mustn’t give up hope. Wonderful idea to instil in the young of today. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Sounds like a wonderful book with an uplifting message. Thanks for sharing.

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