Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Trish Donald to my blog to write about her favourite book, or in this case, books, of the year.
This children’s picture book is charming and sweet. Ash is lonely but through the kind act of sewing beautiful shirts and other cloths for animals, along with helpful things like a cover for a chair and a tiny blanket, she is able to make friends. The size of the animals helps to move the story forward. At the beginning Ash is tiny next to an elephant, and then, as the book progress and the animals get smaller, she eventually becomes the giant next to a tiny mother and baby snail.
I find myself revisiting this book because I love the illustrations so much. The limited colour palette of striking red depicting strong bold patterns, against the soft grey brushwork is striking and beautiful. Red also punctuates the pages in the form of spotted mushrooms, red cherries, and Ash’s little red jacket! Elements such as Ash sitting in a chair in her nest made of sticks with a vase next to her are also beautifully drawn.
Fu Wenzheng is Chinese and her story has been translated into English.
Tales from the Inner City – Shaun Tan
Well, this book confirms yet again why Shaun Tan is my favourite author and illustrator! Tales from the Inner City is a combination of illustrated short stories which capture humanities relationship to animals. Whether it be crocodiles or dogs, snails or a parrot, each story poignantly reveal something about our inner nature and our bond or rejection of animals. We save them and they save us. We destroy them and they destroy us. The animals reflect our love and they reflect our greed. We are them and they are us.
Shaun Tan has a way of tapping into the readers’ heart. For me, this is particularly true with the illustration of the cat, swimming in a stormy sea, a mini mother clutching her child protectively upon its head. The dramatic lighting reveals their peril as the wave’s tower above them, yet, the cat swims on, with just its head above the water. We cannot see the cat’s face, but to me it appears unyielding and brave as it faces this danger. I find this scene extremely touching.
The size of the animals often contrasts with their size in reality which serves to deepens the stories meaning. The textures on these illustrated paintings are delicious and his use of colours exquisite. In true Shan Tan masterfulness, the lighting creates drama which in turn helps to support and reveal each story.
I received this book from my teenage children last Christmas. As the year progressed I visited and revisited it, taking pleasure in the stories and the illustrations, finding new colours, new textures and new meaning. This book will always be a treasure for me.
Trish Donald is an author, illustrator and graphic designer. Her first picture book, Tissy-Woo and the Worry Monsters(which she wrote and illustrated) was published in 2018, and her second picture book, Squitty Fish, with text by Jill Eggleton, was published in 2019. Her website is at https://www.trishdonald.com/