The Color of My Words

Discovering a wonderful book that was not published 5 minutes ago always makes me feel like I’ve unearthed something secret. The fact that all of the hype and discussion and chatter about the book has passed is quite freeing to me as a reader. I can just experience the book for what it is, and not feel pressured to feel the same way about the book that the rest of the world feels. It’s like coming to a new place without any preconceived ideas about it. Sometimes it’s refreshing to step out of the whirlwind of what’s new and what’s hyped and to explore the many, many worthy books already out there.

The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph is this kind of book. It’s not new. It’s just lovely. It tells the story of Ana Rosa, a twelve-year-old growing up in a small community in the Dominican Republic. She longs to be a writer. She is full of stories and curiosity and dreams. Her family and neighbors don’t have it easy. It is a struggle to make ends meet, and so much depends on the vagaries of the tourist economy. Nevertheless, Ana Rosa’s family is pretty strong, and she has particular love for her older brother who is desperate to create a better future for himself. Seeing Ana Rosa’s talent, her family finds small ways to support her writing and Ana Rosa begins to experience the power of words to create change in the world. When tragedy comes to the family, Ana Rosa’s faith in words and poetry faces its first great test.

Writing a beautiful, affecting book is hard. Writing a beautiful, affecting, short book must be very difficult. Joseph’s novel is slim, and yet it examines difficult and complicated issues (poverty, alcoholism, economy in a developing country) in a sensitive and thought-provoking way. You will fall in love with the voice in this book. Ana Rosa is a character you really believe in. It’s strange to feel you have hopes for an imagined person, but you really do hope that Ana Rosa’s life will be rich and fulfilling. This is an eloquent story.

Teachers, The Color of My Words is made for the classroom. It would be the perfect read aloud, seeing that it’s short, with strong characters and growing suspense throughout. Here are a few teaching links with suggestions for using the novel in the classroom:

Color of My Words Webquest
Literacy Conversations with Color of My Words
Books & Curricula for Social Justice


12 thoughts on “The Color of My Words

  1. shelfelf Post author

    You’ll love it Erin. It’s a quick read, but one that will stay with you.

  2. shelfelf Post author

    I did love it Vicki! And yes, thankfully, I think I am making my way out of the slump!

  3. Jan

    I had this book! Overwhelming and inspirational… and very handy too! I’m a freshman college in Philippine Normal University ~ a teacher institution. I’m going to take AB/BSE Literature, thus this simple but colorful book would help me in my term paper!

  4. sandra

    all i want to know the book fiction,non fiction,biography,or auto biography is that to hard to ask??

  5. Torii

    This is a great book. I use it in my ESL classes in Boston and in the Spanish version in a summer literacy program in the Dominican Republic. I will be returning to DR this summer. Any good suggestions for a similar lexile and young adolescant audience read?

  6. Lynn Joseph

    Wow, I came across this review while preparing info for my new web site at and I want to say thank you so much for the review and thanks to everyone who enjoyed the book. I am touched that so many connect with Ana Rosa and yes, she is real in many ways and the events are based on true events that happened in the D.R. I am thoroughly enjoying the other reviews posted on this blog. I see I have lots of reading to catch up on. 🙂

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