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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)
Oscar Seeks a Friend
by Pawel Pawlak
Age Range: 6-8
Oscar the skeleton has lost a tooth – “it’s hard for a small, ugly skeleton to make friends” he observes mournfully; still at least he has his skeleton dog Tag to play with. One day he espies a little girl burying a tooth and asks her if he can have it so he can look less scary. At first, the little girl isn’t impressed telling him “if you bury a tooth, your dreams will come true”. After taking a good look at Oscar and seeing his gap-toothed smile she changes her mind on condition that Oscar helps her to find a friend, for this is the dream she wants to come true. Together they make an unusual journey to two very different worlds.
There is a lot to ponder and notice in this remarkable picture book by Polish author/illustrator Pawel Pawlak, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Pawlak has described creating the book like working on an animated film. Every part of the book is used from the natural folds in the middle of the spread to his use of spatial collage. Painted and ready-made patterned paper has been used to create layers and thick cardboard shapes allow for a raised textured effect. The minimal text allows with its conversational style ensures it is the artwork that tells the story. There is a real ethereal quality to the illustrations and the use of the spreads being divided into one half light and one half dark emphasise this. Pawlak also ensures that there is enough humour too in both the text and the facial expressions of the characters.
Contrasts are highlighted: the little girl shows Oscar her world with a rainbow, the smell of wet grass in a meadow, her home and the seaside, all full of bright and vivid colours. Oscar’s skeletal world has darker backgrounds of black with hints of brown and reds as he takes the little girl to skate in the park and to visit an enormous library. Colour is injected when they go to watch butterflies sleeping on a flowering tree so it is not all drab and black.
Oscar Seeks a is an unusual tale of friendship and shared experiences that create special bonds even when differences seem profound.