Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Wisp: A Story of Hope (Zana Fraillon, illus by Grahame Baker Smith, Lothian)

There have been some beautiful, compassionate picture books that feature the plight of refugees and their search for a peaceful life away from war and poverty. Joining these is this very moving and heartfelt story about Idris, a small boy who has known nothing else but his desperate life as a refugee. He has no memories of a life anywhere else. One day a Wisp—a creature that when held reawakens memories and hopes for freedom—flies through the air. Nobody notices it until Idris catches it in his hands. Author Zana Fraillon won several awards for her novel The Bone Sparrow and English illustrator Grahame Baker Smith is a winner of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. The combination of the moving story, so simply and eloquently told, with the beautiful and involving illustrations will be an inspiration to all readers. The rather dark palette reflects the world that Idris lives in, with a hint of tents and barbed wire. But the pages where the Wisp spreads the light of hope, reflected in Idris’ eyes and on his face, are beautiful. Wisp is a powerful, evocative book for our times and is recommended for readers five and up but should really be read by young and old alike.

Margaret Hamilton is a former children’s book publisher. She is now proprietor of Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in Blackheath, NSW


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