Monday, 23 April 2012

Picture books aren't just for under fives

If you think picture books are just for kids, think again. At one of my book groups last year (made up over folks over 30), we discussed Duck, Death and the Tulip. It provoked a lot of discussion, who was it "aimed" at? After much discussion, we couldn't come to a concensus.

I've found another title that also got me thinking - who is it written for? I immediately wished I was a high school teacher of Art or English (that happens to me occasionally!) so I could use this book to provoke the students. Instead, I'll share it with you, fellow blog reader(s).

I am Thomas written by Libby Gleeson and illustrated by Armin Greder is 32 pages long. Typical picture length, but the audience is definitely not for the under five brigade.

The opening lines two lines are "I am Thomas." and "I am not the child I once was.".

The scene is set for a short (but powerful) tale of standing strong and being yourself, against a back drop of family expectations, peer pressure, societal group-think.

The imagery and language references are provactive, and evoked an uncomfortable reaction for me on the first read through. There are many layers and ideas that need to be re-read, un-picked, pondered on and debated about. I could imagine talking about this book alongside George Orwell's 1984, or WWII propaganda posters, or even Pink Floyd's The Wall album.

For me, it is another key example of picture books definitely not always being for under fives!


kowhai reader said...

I hadn't seen this before but just wandered around to M's desk to have a look. It gave me goosebumps and there is certainly heaps to think about in this one. Even at the end when he is "not the child he once was" there is still something very childlike and innocent about Thomas - despite the best attempts of the world at large. Definitely may have to pick that one up and ponder it again. Thanks M.

tosca said...

Have requested! I'm curious about it now. Saw that we had a copy of Duck, Death and Tulip available downstairs so popped down to nab it. Two minutes later I'm sitting here going, "Whoa. This is quite dark." And then, just like you said, "Who is this FOR?" Intriguing. Can't wait till I Am Thomas comes in for me! Great post, mj :)

mj said...

Glad it's inspired both of you to have a look at these two books.

I really admire writers & illustrators (and their publishers) who put books like this out into the world.

They subvert the norm of what we call a picture book. The subvert the norm of where we shelve them (and where bookshops shelve them).