Jillian loves to experience school with all of her senses. She loves the smell of the markers, the feel of the floor–and the orange she sees when the school bell rings. When Jillian discovers that the other students don’t hear colors the way she does, she feels different and alone. Her classmates make fun of her.
Then, on music day, the visiting musician explains that he, too hears colors. He and Jillian have an extra sense, called synesthesia, a sense that many famous musicians like Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Lady Gaga share.
Too often, books like this become Issue Books; books that use a thin storyline to impart a worthy but un-entertaining lesson. The Girl Who Heard Colors side-steps this trap; it never feels like a setup for a Very Important Message. Jillian is an endearing character, and by the end of the book some kids might be wishing they experienced synesthesia too. Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton–herself a synesthete–add to the overall engaging nature of the book. It’s a great choice to introduce young children to the concept–or to reassure a child with synesthesia that they’re perfectly normal.
Review by Kate Sweeney
The Girl Who Heard Colors by Marie Harris; Nancy Paulsen Books; c2013