{book} look, a book

DAY 28

Look, a Book! by Libby Gleeson illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Officina Libraria, published in Australia in 2011; US in 2012

Red is a favorite color and that it frames such an attractive illustration… I think I’ve found a new Illustrator to add to my favorites list.

Two children find a red book lying in the dust. The discovery will lead them into a magical world where the children’s imagination transforms the surrounding reality.—publisher’s summary.

The story is very straightforward, just as the above summary suggest. “Two children find a red book lying in the dust” where it had fallen from an old woman’s bag as she was returning home. They are curious about it and tote it around as it “transforms the surrounding reality” and as they mind the books care, noting they should not leave it about in the dust, or with the dog, or with the weather. A book is not trash, they seem to say, but something to be treasured and re-used over and over; and something that can indeed transform the world about them—the reality in which they live.

The text is hardly simple in its setting. And despite a reminiscence, neither are the boy and girl Dick and Jane, and the dog is certainly not Spot. The barefoot children live in a place with a lot of open space, lots of dirt and sun, and junk and debris lying about. There also looks to be a small chicken farm. What is remarkable is how when their surroundings are transformed by their imaginations (thanks to the red book), we/they are not transported to some magical kingdom or some elsewhere urban or fantasy. Objects (often the trash) around them find new dimension and purpose. I am unsure of the implications, but the effect is lovely in Freya Blackwood’s hands. The place with which they are obviously familiar, climbing here and there, are explored anew: defying gravity, or now underwater… The effect lingers as they huddle about the old woman who now reads the red book to them. A book that is transformed by them, if the meta still figures in.

the overlap at the center & right suggest that they are sharing an image, which they share with us far right, where they return to a previously imagined place but the woman is with them this time. I love the shift in dynamics there.

The message that books can fuel our imaginations and transport us in fantastical ways is and will be clear to the early reader (and its younger audience). Perhaps, too, we come to learn that books may have greater transportative power, to get out and to get into the others’ realities. The depiction of the underprivileged here should not go without notice or remark in this red book.

the sequence marks the transition into envisioning this “transformed reality,” the layers/focus.

The text is inseparable from the illustrations and vice versa; which should go without saying in picture books, I suppose, but the crafting of this one makes the notion especially true—and successful. The figures, human or otherwise, have a bit of rough line work about the edges, a suggestion of a lack of refinement? though it possible in some offing somewhere/ the radiance of the sun? The illustrations are pretty: the palette, the forms. There are details that can draw the eye create the context, but there are also moments of focus and movement that signal transitions. There are layers, the two primary being: the story of the children’s adventure and the care and keeping of the book that takes them there. The lives of these children are precious, as is the existence of the book—a book. And really, the elderly woman as well. She has brought them the book and she is reading it to them.


At first I thought I had stumbled on an overly simple yet pretty picture book with a vibrant yet worn red cover, I found something more. I love those kinds of discoveries. I look forward to enjoying more of Libby Gleeson’s and Freya Blackwood’s work in the near future. Add them to your lists as well.

{images belong to Freya Blackwood}

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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