A small boy worries about and struggles with many things: being left out of peer groups, not being good at sport, struggling at school work. Each thing seemingly small in itself, together they erode his self-confidence and he feels himself diminishing, followed by monsters who eat away at his sense of self. At risk of being overwhelmed, he finally gets help from his family, and starts to find renewed self confidence, as well as an awareness that he is not alone in the struggles: other people, too, feel haunted by unseen monsters.
Small Things is an amazing picture book. In graphic novel format, this wordless book says so very much about struggles with mental illness, self worth and anxiety. The black and white illustrations bring the boys’ troubles to life as monsters with tentacles and big teeth which float around him, and leave him broken, though when he gets help he becomes whole again. The monsters don’t completely disappear though, a reminder that healing can be an ongoing process.
This is a book which will speak to children and adults alike, and the story behind the book is one which should also be known, with the author sadly having lost her own battle with depression before the book’s completion.
Small Things, by Mel Tregonning
Allen & Unwin, 2016
’These little figures of slay, with their simplified features, their single attributes, are perfect realisations of the strangeness of the characters they represent.’ PHILLIP PULLMAN
If you are expecting smiling princesses or Disneyfied beasts in this collection of images interpreting Grimms’ fairytales, then you are probably unfamiliar with the work of its creator Shaun Tan. But if you love Tan’s work, then you will adore this amazing offering.
Tan created sculpture images to accompany a collection of Grimms’ fairy tales edited by Phillip Pullman, and The Singing Bones presents these images plus more, each accompanied by a short extract from the relevant fairytale. The sculptures, created with paper-mache and clay and coloured with acrylics, oxidised metal powder, wax and shoe-polish and could well be the relics from an archaeological dig, an effect Tan was hoping to create. Some are whimsical, others are frightening, but all are breathtaking. Readers who may be unfamiliar with the tales will probably be keen to go and find them for themselves, but in the meantime , a back-of-book index gives a precis of each tale.
A wonderful collectors’ item suitable for all ages.
The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan with a foreword by Philip Pullman
Allen & Unwin, 2015
IT’s an odd thing to have a writing award given in your name, especially when you’re not dead yet. But clearly, not being dead has its rewards. The pay-off is being here to see young people exercising their hearts and minds for the pleasure and excitement of simply being allowed to do so. And if being the patron of such a prize is premature then I’ll just have to endure it as another form of being a little early and a bit awkward, as is my lifelong habit.
It’s an odd thing to have a writing award given in your name, especially when you’re not dead yet. But clearly, not being dead has its rewards. The pay-off is being here to see young people exercising their hearts and minds for the pleasure and excitement of simply being allowed to do so. And if being the patron of such a prize is premature then I’ll just have to endure it as another form of being a little early and a bit awkward, as is my lifelong habit.
Hatched is a collection of stories taken from the twenty years of the Tim Winton Award for Young Writers. The annual Award, auspiced by the City of Subiaco in Perth, is open to all Western Australian school children from five years old to age eighteen years old. This anthology features work from the first 20 years of the Award. Each story is accompanied by the category it was entered in and the school at which the author studied. Stories range from the real to the fantastical and explore a range of themes. Generational feuds, friendships, bullies, obsessions, the future all get an outing. Writers featured range from mid-primary to upper-secondary. The collection includes a forward by Tim Winton and cover image by Shaun Tan.
There are not many opportunities for young writers to practise their craft beyond school boundaries. Or to read the work of other young writers. The Tim Winton Award for Young Writers offers both. Young writers can see their work in print and also read works by their peers. It also allows the wider community access to the stories and the concerns of young writers. This anthology is testament to the imagination and skills of our young writers as well as to their families and teachers. It will be useful in schools and libraries to inspire other young writers. Beyond that, it’s an entertaining and fascinating read. Recommended for mid-primary to upper-secondary schoolers and beyond.
Hatched, an Anthology, forward by Tim Winton Fremantle Press 2013 ISBN: 9781922089458
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This is a picture book with a difference – and what a wonderful difference it is. Rather than containing a storyline, it contains several stories, each rendered in a double page spread, with or without a quote , all around the theme of the bicycle.
In a perfect world, this book would not exist. But we do not live in a perfect world. Even if we all learn to live in peace, there will still be millions of people who need our help.
This is a picture book with a difference – and what a wonderful difference it is. Rather than containing a storyline, it contains several stories, each rendered in a double page spread, with or without a quote , all around the theme of the bicycle. Created as an inspirational fundraiser for the Save the Children fund, the book explores all aspects of the magic of the bicycle, chosen as the central motif because it symbolises fun and adventure for children.
Contributing artists, including Quentin Blake, Shaun Tan and Freya Blackwood have each created a double page spread, each in their own style. Some are whimsical , such as David Miller’s wonderful paper sculpture of an elephant riding a unicycle, others more serious, such as Jan Bowman’s night scene where two cyclists ride through the darkened streets of London, their bike lights illuminating their way. Some have no words, others a quote from literature or famous figures, and others quotes from children whose lives have been made better through the donation of bicycles, such as 14 year old Dany from Cambodia who says: I promise to study harder and take good care of my bicycle as my best friend. We will go to the upper grade together.
Introductory notes from author/illustrator Colin Thompson and from Suzanne Dvorak, CEP of Save the Children Australia explain the concept of the book and the important work that the fund does.
The Bicycle is a celebration of the bicycle, and of the wonderful impact of acts of charity.
The Bicycle, by Colin Thompson
ABC Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2011
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond.
Some years ago we had a foreign exchange student come to stay, but he didn’t want to use our guest room. He preferred to sleep in our pantry…
This whimsical small format offering from the brilliant Shaun Tan is an absolute delight. The exchange student who comes to live with a human family is a tiny pointed headed character reminiscent of a leaf. The family have trouble understanding him, but share their life with him and make sure he has all sorts of experiences. They are never quite sure whether he enjoys them or not, but when he leaves, the family discover he has left them a beautiful surprise.
First included as part of Tan’s Tales From Outer Suburbia, Eric is now presented as a standalone hard cover offering, suitable for all ages. With Tan’s delightfully simple illustrations – chiefly in grey-scale but with splashes of colour where needed – and accompanying minimalist text, this is an offering to be simultaneously laughed at and pondered.
A little treasure.
Eric, by Shaun Tan
Allen & Unwin, 2010
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereveiws.