I absolutely loved Zana Fraillon’s ‘Wisp' and so was expecting another superb and intelligent picture book and she does not disappoint.
Tackling a difficult subject with sensitivity and a brilliant understanding - she has a child with Tourette’s syndrome - The Curiosities is a celebration of seeing the world differently, diversity and embracing difference in all its forms.
The Curiosities - represented by ghostly shaped creatures - have chosen Miro. At first they are barely noticeable, a tingle here, a murmur there. They are even helpful, like a super-power awakening him to the things in the world that others miss, those ‘wonders and possibles’ But gradually the creatures become more obvious until they are all that anyone notices, so much so that Miro the child becomes invisible and people only see him for his differences.
Overwhelmed by the Curiosities, Miro plunges into darkness and it is here that he finds the thread of knowing that not only guides him out of the dark and into the light but also helps him to understand that he is not alone. There are others that have their own Curiosities and they too see and experience the world differently.
The Curiosities is an open invitation to celebrate our own differences and to wholeheartedly embrace and accept the differences of others. We all need to look out for the ‘wonders and the possibles’ in the world, be it swimming with with stars, tickling the songs from the earth, whispering up waves and weaving clouds to make stories like Miro or something else entirely.
This is such a clever book that can be read on many different levels. It is about the rich and wonderful imagination of a young child and finding the wonders in the world. It explores feelings of being different and alone and the associated anxieties, worries and fears that can arise. And it shows how a difference can become less of a burden when you find those that have similar experiences and have a supportive community. Brilliant and heartfelt notes from both author and illustrator will only further aid understanding of the subject matter.
The magic of Fraillon’s storytelling is made even more wondrous and mysterious through the brilliant artwork of Phil Lesnie. Set in an unspecified place, Lesnie has taken his inspiration from Philippine folklore; spirit-like creatures, rice paddies, stilt houses and a wise Elder create a wonderful reading experience.
If we really want children to understand neurodiversity and disability, and to know and accept that we are not all the same, then we need books like this that help readers young and old better understand those that experience a different normal. I’ll leave you with this from Zana’s author’s note, ‘People are disabled not by their impairment or their difference, but by the way they are treated by society.’
A heartfelt thank you to Zana for this beautiful and valuable story and with thanks to Hachette and Lothian Children’s Books for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 5+.