Arts Books By The Book Kids literature Review Singapore

★★★☆☆ Book Review: Uncle Daniel’s Favourite Colour by Far’ain Jaafar and Nisa’ Tuzzakirah

An introduction to synaesthesia and the many ways one can experience ‘sight’.

Talking to disabled individuals can feel a little scary, with the fear that one might accidentally seem insensitive and commit some kind of social faux pas when we speak to them about ‘normal’ experiences. That’s a big reason behind Yusuf’s hesitation when he’s assigned to find out about his family’s favourite colours, and his mother wonders why he’s left out his blind Uncle Daniel.

But as Yusuf soon learns, Uncle Daniel does, in fact, have a favourite colour. Only, since he can’t ‘see’ in the same way seeing people can, his experience of colours opens up a whole new world of possibility, as he describes how he associates colours with his other senses, whether it’s the ‘red’ taste of assam pedas, the prickly ‘brown’ of the house doormat, or the audio associations he has with the colour grey, whenever Yusuf’s abang plays music.

For most people, even adults, this concept of synaesthesia and being able to ‘hear’, ‘touch’ or even ‘taste’ colour can seem completely foreign. But author Far’ain Jaafar makes it a simple idea to understand, and normalise how disabilities don’t always have to hinder one’s enjoyment of life; just shift the focus to other aspects and senses.

Nisa’ Tuzzakirah’s illustrations are cartoony and adorable, and plays with a wide variety of perspectives, angles and size to ensure each page feels dynamic. Her choice of colours make her illustrations pop, and her characters are expressive. Perhaps what is most interesting is how she uses a range of light and dark browns to depict various members of this Malay family’s skin tone; even the colour brown is not a fixed shade, highlighting the diversity of skin tones that make up a single race.

Uncle Daniel’s Favourite Colour is a simple yet original book about how even something as seemingly fixed as colour can be subjective, and how important it is to keep an open mind, and shift our perspective to understand the endlessly diverse way the human race experiences the world.

Recommended for: Curious readers wondering how one can experience ‘sight’ even while blind – it might encourage them to try describing colours in brand new ways!

Uncle Daniel’s Favourite Colour is published by Epigram and available here

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