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Adult Colouring Books

Using ‘Adult’ as an adjective can make the associated noun sound seedy but, after a short investigation, I’m pleased to report that Google doesn’t return anything make your toes curl if you use the title of this post as a search term (although I declined to press my investigation too far). I think ‘Grown Up’ might have been a better term but, the truth is, that both search engines and people know adult colouring books are that pile of publications full of generally complex patterns that have seen a huge growth over the last year or two.

Some are simplistic (see my reviews from Tuesday and Wednesday) but others are fascinating. I wonder though if they really need any special adjective at all. It was probably the marketing department who added it and, human psychology being what it is, it doubtless contributed to sales by suggesting a niche. When it comes down to it, they are nonetheless just colouring books albeit generally quite advanced ones that will reward the person with fine-tipped pens or sharp pencils if they like to colour inside the lines.

I think the most mature (another suggestive adjective – I don’t think I will try a search with this one!) colouring books I remember were the anti-colouring book series by Susan Striker and Edward Kimmel. Rather than promoting the mindless filling of shapes with colour – the relaxing but lowest common denominator approach to the genre – they provided a frame for the imagination with an illustration that could be coloured, a few choice words like ‘what was your nicest dream’ and plenty of blank space where you needed to draw as well as colour.

If the current wave of colouring books is to educate as well as inform, then their users need to not just fill in but learn the vocabulary of lines so, eventually, they can create their own patterns given a blank space and express themselves without having to buy in a personality.

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