Uprooted and homeless gargoyle provides valuable lesson in not completely destroying and forgetting the past in the quest for future convenience.
Despite his age and tired-appearance, no-one on the train shows any kindness to the gargoyle. No-one offers a hand, no-one volunteers a seat, no-one says a word. The boy notices though. When the gargoyle departs, leaving a suitcase behind, the boy is compelled to open it. Incased within, memory, upon memory, upon memory. The gargoyle has observed it all. But those bright days are long gone. In a decaying city, could a tiny seed hold the key to a brighter future…
Who says picture books aren’t for older kids? Giving children of all ages access to a diverse range of reading material is essential and this includes quality picture books. There are some incredible picture books out there for children in the later years of primary school and The Gargoyle, by one of Australia’s most notable children’s authors, is captivating, challenging and will remain long in the memory (very apt given the narrative).
A poignant, moving and thought-provoking story told through the eyes of a young boy who, after unleashing powerful memories of days gone by, brings life back to a dreary city and gives the gargoyle a new place to call home. It is a sad fact that many old and often impressive buildings are torn down in cities to make way for high rise buildings and apartment blocks. History is lost, legacies forgotten and gargoyles without a home. The Gargoyle’s exploration of conservation, ageing and legacy is important and serves as a valuable warning about progress, development and change.
With her beautifully written and often haunting words, Zana Fraillon challenges readers. Challenges them to unpick the story, to look for clues, to delve deeper. Why is the gargoyle on the train? What was his purpose? Why is he no longer needed? What is happening in the city? Why do the adults act the way they do? What does the boy represent? What does the ending suggest? So much to contemplate, so much to discuss, the list of questions could go on.
Ross Morgan’s artwork is powerful; dull and lifeless colours evoke a dreary cityscape and cast a sobering look on humankind. The disconnect between the passengers on the train is striking, each in their own world, paying no attention to their fellow passengers, isolated from each other. The opening of the case is pure joy and wonder, colours bursting back into the world. Interestingly, only the boy is impressed, the adults view, an inconvenience. Something else to ponder.
Readers will be pulled in to this most inspiring and imaginative of reads that demands reflection and quiet contemplation. Whilst much of the narrative evokes sadness, hopelessness and is a rather depressing indictment on humans and their actions an uplifting ending offers optimism and promise for a better, brighter and more colourful world. Now we just need to seize the opportunity.
Be more gargoyle; watch, remember, cherish, and give future generations a world worth watching. A stunning picture book.
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to Hachette and Lothian for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.