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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)
Child of Glass
by Beatrice Alemagna
Age Range: 6-8
One day, in a village neighbouring the European cities of Florence and Bilbao, a child of glass is born. Gisele is a fragile and transparent girl. At first, she blends in “with everything around her... shimmering like a thousand mirrors beneath the moon.” People come from far and wide to see her and she becomes something of a ‘celebrity’ – “Can we touch her?”, “Can we patent her?”, “What a beauty.” None of this means anything to Gisele or her parents because they are worried about something else entirely: Gisele cannot hide her feelings from others, her thoughts are on display for all to see. If Gisele experiences sadness or anger one of her nails or one of her legs develops a crack and her transparency leaves her open to criticism and judgment.
Another exquisite creation from multiple award-winning author/illustrator Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Child of Glass is an allegorical tale with sparse text and alluring illustrations in a mixed media of watercolour, collage, pen and ink, crayon and translucent overlays. The clever use of this see-through paper allows the reader to observe Gisele’s fragility and how her inner world is exposed. One double-spread shows a long snaking queue of people waiting to see Gisele; another is of a baying mob of villagers as they sneer at her – “Aren’t you ashamed to show such awful things, Gisele?” A further powerful image displays a wide pale blue face crying a crystal tear.
Child of Glass is a book of many layers and there is a lot that can be interpreted from the surrealist artwork. A story for a slightly older age group and one that adults can take a lot from too.