The Boy and the Elephant (Freya Blackwood, HarperCollins)
After almost 20 years of her books on our shelves, a new Freya Blackwood is always cause for delight. The Boy and the Elephant—Blackwood’s first wordless picture book—allows her quiet images to shine and tell their own story. Blackwood has described her work in the past as having both ‘softness and darkness’, able to be both ‘gentle [and] serious’, and The Boy and the Elephant is well captured by these binaries. While the story explores, at its heart, the grief of human development encroaching on wild spaces, it is at the same time full of innocent, powerful childlike optimism and love. In a world where adults are distracted by other concerns (work, a new baby), a young boy tenderly nurtures his own solitude with visits to his arboreal friend in the small forest—a peaceful and mellow haven away from the city’s bustle—beside his house. When he learns the trees are slated for demolition, he mourns quietly and alone, but finds a way to rescue them, drawing them to a new home, Pied Piper–style, with his devotion. While the climax of the story is a little bit buried, the resolution is satisfying, and the rich page spreads and panels throughout create an addictively lovely world that I just couldn’t get enough of. Children three and older will adore both the illustrations and the freedom to interpret and tell the story themselves.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop for over 10 years. She speaks to Frey Blackwood about her new book here.