Thursday 8 July 2021

The Colour of Music

The Colour of Music by Lisa Tiffen, illustrated by Matt Ottley (Midnight Sun) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781925227871

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

Molly lies on the floor and surrenders to a cacophony of colour and pattern, as her music pulls her through an intense landscape of emotions. The reader travels with her as she experiences colour, shape, and emotion while listening to a mystery piece.

Written and illustrated by creators who have synaesthesia, this book resonates emotionally with the reader. The book transports those of us with a more straightforward relationship with music into Molly’s multidimensional experience. Abstract in imagery and language, there is space for exploration and interpretation, as well as an opportunity to introduce readers who may be exclusively familiar with commercial pop to other musical genres.


This is a sophisticated book in both vocabulary and artwork. While some of the words will be a stretch for younger readers, the text is poetic and evocative. The painterly illustrations range from splashes of colour and shape to a garden of instruments, with wordless double spreads beautifully conveying emotions like peace, loneliness, and anger.

The only jarring note in this symphonic picture book is the rendering of Molly wearing headphones to listen to her music, which conflicts with the suggestion in the opening spread that she can feel the vibrations through the floorboards. That said, the headphones work to convey the act of listening without relying on cliches such as floating music notes, which would have diluted the visual impact.

An immersive experience with particular appeal for musicians in the making, and an eye- (ear-?) opener for those less musically inclined. Recommended for anyone aged 4 years and above.

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