Coloring Feelings: Concept Books Making and Remaking Racialized Color Meanings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working with cognitive literary theory, affect theory, semiotics, and recent picturebook scholarship, this essay looks at the ways the concept book (as a subtype of the picturebook format) connects color to emotion. In doing so, it suggests that one of Western culture’s most commonly accepted ideas of color and color meaning may contribute to ongoing social inequities and injustices. The essay identifies a set of techniques the concept book uses to attach emotion meaning to color, highlighting that such connections are not merely embodied within concept books, but they are also nurtured by them. As the essay also re-introduces “nurture” into cognitive studies literary scholarship, it suggests that, while the innate, cognitive brain structure of schema and script might be immutable, the content of those structures is flexible and therein offers possibility for change. This possibility is in fact itself embodied in a small but growing body of concept books that seem to resist and push back against conventional, emotionalized color meaning, leaving meaning potentials open and promoting cognitive flexibility by engaging empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-377
Number of pages21
JournalChildren's Literature in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Affect Theory
  • Cognitive Studies
  • Color
  • Concept Books
  • Diversity
  • Emotion
  • Empathy
  • Picture Books
  • Picturebooks
  • Racism
  • Semiotics
  • Theory of Mind


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