Somewhere Else (Gus Gordon, Viking)
White duck George Laurent doesn’t want to fly anywhere. The beauty of the Arctic tundra, the Caribbean and Paris means nothing to him, despite the urging of his friends. He’d prefer to be at home baking scrumptious éclairs, carrot cake and brownies, learning yoga or playing guitar. The truth is that George has never learned to fly—he was doing something else that day—but with help of his friend, bespectacled bear Pascal Lombard, this could change. In Somewhere Else, the familiar childhood drama of meeting new challenges comes wrapped in an unusual costume (of feathers). And there is a welcome diversity to the animal characters, who populate a world that seems to do fine without new technology. There is so much to like in Somewhere Else. There are deft verbal twists that keep the text pulsing, while visually the book is a masterclass in collage, combining a clean, contemporary feel with late 19th-century Parisian flourishes. Gus Gordon has found a grammar that unites free drawing with found images, and has created a book floating in time—but the visual sophistication and rich language never overwhelm the central tale of George’s world and his place in it. Parents and children, including developing readers, will be sustained and delighted by the humour, pathos and surprises in George’s excellent adventure.
Mike Shuttleworth is the program manager for the Australian Children’s Literature Alliance