Book Reviews


Below is a compilation of reviews by representatives of the World Blind Union, National Federation of the Blind, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA);  a world-renowned perception researcher from Esref Armagan’s brain study team,  Esref Armagan’s manager, and readers.   


An illuminating portrait …The author's particular focus on the artist's development…offer real insight into how obstacles raised by physical disabilities can be overcome with motivation and ingenuity. Informative as well as inspiring.  –Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful biography that celebrates diversity and perseverance. Recommended to expand and deepen elementary school art collections.—School Library Journal (Jessica Cline, New York Public Library)

Mr. Armagan has demonstrated for the first time that a blind person can develop on his or her own pictorial skills the equal of most depiction by the sighted. This has not happened before in the history of picture-making. —John M. Kennedy, Professor, Perception/Cognition Psychology, University of Toronto at Scarborough (one of the scientists involved in testing Esref's abilities)

A story of talent, perseverance, and refusal to accept limitations. Esref's triumph will inspire young readers to stretch toward goals they may not have believed were within their reach. —Deborah Stein Kent, National Federation of the Blind (and Parents of Blind Children Organization)

Ms. Burk has found a way to showcase his  aptitude and gift so that we can all better understand both the meaning of thinking outside of the box, and appreciatE an inspiring visual artist who has found a way to teach all of us the meaning of dedication and perseverance.  Ms. Burk has been able to write a book that will motivate us to understand that with determination, all doors can be opened and all obstacles removed.
Joan Eroncel, Manager and Turkish/English Interpreter for Esref Armagan

The book conveys an inspiring story about an inspiring individual in a way that is respectful of his disability and paints a picture of the individual that will help to inspire and will also help to change perceptions of disability and ability. Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union

Deserves a prominent display in school art rooms, during instruction of biology and human senses, in curriculum integrating technology and fine arts, children’s libraries and in school guidance offices. –Ann Tavino, school guidance counselor.

"I read the book with Anton, a twelve-year-old blind friend of mine. Anton was thoroughly engaged with the beginning of the story...(He) felt that kids at school might understand him better if they heard Esref's story...I was fascinated with the story from beginning to end. Armagan's tenacity and creativity are awe-inspiring! Anton and I made a date to try out Armagan's glue-and-string painting technique. When we followed the directions (the illustrations added a lot to my understanding of how to recreate some of Armagan's techniques) we enjoyed success and were eager to try out other ideas. This book gave us a great jumping-off point to explore tactile painting.
This book is the story of a real person and the many challenges he faced to make his life what he wanted it to be. It is hard to imagine the fortitude that kept Armagan moving forward, despite many major setbacks. Ms. Burk does not shy away from the barriers of culture, illness, and social limitation Armagan had to overcome in addition to his blindness. Neither does she avoid Armagan's emotional struggles on his journey to success...
This book will be of keen interest to blind children, their parents, and their teachers; to anyone who wonders about techniques for making art tactually accessible; and of course to anyone who loves an inspiring, true-life story."    ~Ann Cunningham, for Future Reflections Magazine (National Federation of the Blind).  Ann Cunningham is a sculptor who works to promote the tactile appreciation of art. She teaches art at the Colorado Center for the Blind. (for the full review: )


The World Blind Union (WBU) is an international organization representing the estimated 161 million blind or low-vision individual people in 181 countries. Visit:



Francesca Rosenberg

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY

Director of Community and Access Programs in the Department of Education

 Children will enjoy reading this wonderful book to learn more about Esref’s great abilities and will then undoubtedly be inspired to think about their own.

Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway

President of the Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children (GOPBC)

Board Member of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC)

 His story is inspiring not only to blind individuals, but to anyone who has ever had a dream that seemed unattainable... a valuable addition to any elementary school curriculum..
Laura Weber

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
 The book is uplifting and inspiring, but it’s not just “feel-good” fluff.  Its educational and scientific details give it depth. It does not make Armagan appear “super-human.”  Instead, it portrays him as a passionate, dedicated man who became successful through perseverance and hard work. fills a niche that is much needed ... It supports our belief that our kids can do anything and that we can make a difference in the future of all blind children by providing information, training, and blind adult role models.

Journal and Reader Reviews

  on August 11, 2016
As a school guidance counselor, I often use my summer break to browse new resources I can use during the next school year. After reading Painting in the Dark by Rachelle Burk, I have given it a place in my Top 10 of elementary school books. The cover and title reveal just a small portion of this wonderful, encouraging and astonishing story. The subject of this biography is Esref Armagan. He is born blind. But he is fascinated and eager, from a very young age, to explore the world around him and find his place of purpose. This story is not just about overcoming severe obstacles and coping with debilitating setbacks. It’s a lesson in tenacity; making beautiful contributions to a world he will never see. He also shares his blindness and talents with scientists, who use medical technology to discover and document how Esref has sight without using his eyes. Painting in the Dark deserves a prominent display in school art rooms, during instruction of biology and human senses, in curriculum integrating technology and fine arts, children’s libraries and in school guidance offices. I recommend it for fourth through sixth grades.
on July 29, 2016  (this reviewer is a school principal)
This book tells the inspiring story of Esref Armagan, a blind painter. Children will be amazed at how Esref was determined to paint and learn about his environment. The book also gives children a better understanding of what goes into a painting. Besides line and color, students learn about the use of shadows and perspective. Esref's story allows children to empathize with his many challenges as a blind man. Ms. Burk also introduces the students to some medical concepts, such as the use of MRI. The book has beautiful illustrations with a wonderful use of color that will attract children too young to read the book, but who can appreciate the lovely art work.

on July 26, 2016
Esref's story was truly inspiring. It shows how much our body can do is way beyond our comprehension. I am impressed by the fact that our sight can detour to our brain and directly to our hands. It is not Esref's paintings but rather his spirit of not giving up touches me.
on July 24, 2016
Kudos to Rachelle Burk for bringing such an amazing story to life in such a charming way. Kids and parents alike will enjoy it, and have so many talking points to help inspire their own lives. It's a remarkable book, executed in a rich, multi-layered manner. Thank you!
on July 21, 2016
This story is truly inspiring! It is great for young readers to know what others have overcome!
on July 21, 2016
I'm kind of obsessed with brain science, so I loved learning about this remarkable man whose story is as inspiring for budding young scientists as for budding young artists -- not to mention anyone who struggles with obstacles. And who among us couldn't use inspiration for leaping our own hurdles? Through author Rachelle Burk's elegantly-worded text, we get to know a person who, from childhood, followed his dreams and never gave up on doing the thing he loved. The book pages switch seamlessly back and forth between story illustrations and Esref Armagan's own paintings. Truly jaw-dropping to realize his eyes have never beheld the scenes he paints! This is a wonderful, motivating nonfiction addition to any child's library.
on July 20, 2016
I've been a fan of Rachelle Burk's work ever since her first book, "Treehouse in a Storm." The topics she chooses are so disparate -- but no matter the subject matter, Burk brings the material alive. "Painting the Dark" is another compelling example of her talent for finding a topic that young readers won't be able to resist and then bringing it to multi-dimensional life. In this case, t's the story of an accomplished painter ... who has been blind since birth. Burk's narrative portrayal of how he developed his craft is at once straightforward and mind-boggling. Also, very touching. Vivid illustrations and classroom resources for those who want to dig even deeper into Esref Aragon's life and work.
on July 18, 2016
As an art instructor, I often give my students the task of creating a "blind contour" drawing or ask them to create a drawing by only feeling the object. For my students this is an exercise in concentration that many find difficult, frustrating or humorous. I often tell them that art takes perseverance. Esref's story is an inspiring example of perseverance, of overcoming life's obstacles and never giving up.
on July 17, 2016
What struck me most about this book was the way the illustrator, New Zealand artist Claudia Gadotti, has created images that highlight and complement the paintings of the blind artist Estef Armagan. This is an inspiring and colorful story of a man achieving a most unlikely dream

on July 7, 2016
Imagine being blind from birth, first learning to draw by pressing lines into cardboard to create images you can feel. Now imagine learning of a quality called 'color' and remembering the details when told how all the different colors distinguish what you cannot see. What pride when your art has people see what you cannot! This heartwarming true story displays personal challenges confronted and bested by creativity. I am intrigued how Esref Armagan effectively applies principles of perspective and incorporates new materials to add texture and clarity to his paintings. I also like how the artist's own pictures are cleverly mixed with those of the illustrator of this delightful picture book.

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