The Colours of History: Book Review

Colour knowledge: Did you know pink was originally yellow? Do you know why royals wear purple? Unlock the mysteries of colours.

Title: The Colours of History: How Colours Shaped the World
Author: Clive Gifford
Illustrator: Marc-Etienne Peintre
ISBN: 9781682973400          Language: English

Classification: Non-Fiction
Themes: history, colours, meaning

What's it about?
This book explores how colours got their names but not just the boring yellow, green, red...but so yellow ochre and cochineal. It discusses how and where the colour came about - from rocks to insects and everything in between.

Each colour that is discussed is done so over a two-page spread; the text is done in short paragraph blocks (about 2 sentences each) and placed around in the picture. The illustrations are so engaging and brightly coloured in the theme of the colour.

Um...could I have a second edition with even more colours explained? Please?

My Thoughts
Oh wow, I'm being spoilt at the moment with all these wonderful non-fiction books!

Have you ever had to try and explain to your child why two colours are called red? For the most part, we can be a bit lazy and say the general colour it is. If feeling motivated we might even throw in a "light" or "dark" *gasp*! Recently though, my own daughter wasn't satisfied with my explanation of purple because she has three shades of purple markers. We discussed violet and lilac and then it got complicated...eventually, she was all purpled-out! (This book actually adds 3 shades of purple to my teaching list for her now!)

Colours are one of the early things we learn as children. We learn to distinguish between colours and then shades. I'll be honest though, I've never ever stopped to think how a colour got its name (with the exception of lapis lazuli - I had a thing for learning about rocks at one time).

This is a fascinating book that looks at a sample of colour shades and explains what it was named after or how it was named and some of its uses. As an adult, I'm finding this interesting! With simple text and stunning support illustrations, this is one of those books to have in your general or art classroom. My students would have gotten such a buzz from learning about the history of blues, reds, and greens when we did the Warm and Cool Colours Art Activity. It would have added a much-needed depth to the lesson as well as incorporating a bit of history and look at how a vocabulary develops.

Great for beginner and competent readers; especially good to engage reluctant readers and students who may be below their reading level. Go on and buy this one as soon as it is released on 19th April 2018 in Australia and elsewhere!

Special thanks to Quarto Publishing Group - QEB and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of the book.


  1. Sarah - Craft Invaders27 May 2018 at 08:14

    What an interesting book - Like you I'd be fascinated by this and I'm sure my kids would be too. Will be adding it to my next amazon order and perhaps one for school too :)

  2. This book sounds so interesting, love to find out the history behind things. So true that kids just learn purple as purple when there’s so many shades and variations.

  3. BritishStyleUK27 May 2018 at 14:11

    I studied a bit of colour psychology as part of my interior design diploma, but never colour history - what an interesting book!

  4. scrapbookadventures36528 May 2018 at 03:19

    I actually love the idea of this book! I have no idea why colours got their colour so this would be a really interesting read!

  5. This books looks fabulous. I trained in Colour Therapy and I really do feel that we often take colour for granted. A book like this is a fantastic resource.

  6. lifeinamumshell28 May 2018 at 06:42

    Wow, who knew?! I actually had an argument with my 3yr because he kept calling purple violet...he recently learnt this new colour at school..that was interesting. Lol

  7. Ah I love when kids latch onto something and at age 3 (I've got 2 just about to turn 4) they are not going to give in on their opinion! LOL

  8. What a fabulous sounding book - a great way to introduce varying colours and their history to a child. I bet it would be educational even for an adult!

  9. Awww, how sweet of her. The book sounds fascinating, I will love to read it xx

  10. Steph @ Renovation Bay-Bee28 May 2018 at 12:50

    My son loves history and this would have been great for him when he was younger. Great pick

  11. fivelittledoves (@fivelittledove5)28 May 2018 at 15:46

    Oh I love this! Its so interesting but also sounds like a really lovely book too. My kids would love it Im sure!

  12. Lauren Davis29 May 2018 at 07:06

    I've never even thought about this before how interesting thanks for sharing!