Martin was the runt of the family. He lived with his father, a might forester, and his two older brothers on the edge of the Megalong Valley, in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Martin’s father was a huge man and his brothers tall as forest gums; their faces handsome as granite sculptures, their muscled limbs a wonder to behold.
Since his mother left them, tiny Martin had felt the daily sting of his family’s ridicule.
Martin struggles in his family after his mother leaves. He cannot compare with the size and strength of his brothers, and he has no answer to their taunts. He wanders into the forest. Eventually, he finds another family. Here, by fitting in, he can grow strong. Time passes and he prospers. One day he witnesses his father’s pain and remorse and must make a decision about forgiveness. Text is set in text boxes and illustrations are black and white with soft tinting. They are slightly surreal.
The Cuckoo is a modern parable, full of evil, abandonment and ultimately hope. Text is extensive and the entire design is that of a fairytale. Illustrations are sombre almost forbidding, in keeping with a text filled with the struggle to survive both physically and emotionally. They invite close attention, and offer up the secrets of the dark forest. Martin has to adapt to survive, and offers courage to readers who find themselves in situations not of their making. Bullying, survival, remorse and forgiveness are all explored here. The Cuckoo offers rich material for classroom discussion. This is a beautifully designed package, complete with dust jacket. From the intriguing cover image to the final word, there is much to ponder. Recommended for older readers, from mid-primary upwards.
The Cuckoo, Gary Crew ill Naomi Turvey Ford St Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925000177
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller