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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Armin Greder
Age Range: 9-11
A woman and her child live in a big city. The son is the most precious thing she has and she loves him very much. When her husband dies in the war, the mother promises to spare her son a similar fate and also to protect him from all the terrible things that happen in life. She embarks on a journey, leaving her house and the city in order to find a safe place where ‘nothing would hurt him’. In a part of the country where there are no roads or bridges she builds a house where they live happily together. But one night she dies leaving her son unprotected and vulnerable to the dangers of life.
This is another extraordinary picture book from Swiss author and illustrator Armin Greder after his award-winning book The Island. Greder expertly deals with human fear and insecurity in this book. The stark visual narrative is extremely powerful and Greder’s charcoal drawings of different shades and tones, particularly black and grey convey the feelings of desolation and isolation of the young boy.
Definitely a picture book for older readers (including adults), it is a contemporary fable that tackles some complex issues such as the over protectiveness by a mother of her child and a retreat from society. It also explores the dangers of not allowing them to face life for themselves and to confront their fears and emotions. By protecting her son to such an extent she causes more harm by allowing him to become more vulnerable. Teachers might find this a useful book to use in the classroom for discussion. There are some teacher notes available from www.allenandunwin.com