The Treasure Box is another collaboration between two big names in Australian children's books- author Margaret Wild, and illustrator Freya Blackwood. Both are prolific, and usually feature in many awards. I've featured a few Margaret Wild titles before- The Dream of the Thylacine and Tanglewood.
I'm always rather astonished at the breadth and depth of topics covered in picture books for children. The Treasure Box, like so many others, deals with war. In a nameless war, "the enemy" bomb Peter's city, and everything including the books in the library burns.
Only one book survives. A special book, treasure by Peter's father, "a book about our people, about us".
Peter and his father are ordered out of their home by this faceless enemy, so they join others fleeing their city. They take the precious book with them.
The Treasure Box raises issues of war, death, refugees and oppression. It also deals with hope, perserverence and the power of the human spirit. Just your average picture book stuff.
I always love Freya Blackwood's illustrative style. Her book with Ireland's Roddy Doyle, Her Mother's Face, is one of my favourite picture books ever. Her style is quite distinctive, but she really mixed things up here, and adopted a different approach. She still does her beautiful, soft, emotive drawings but has combined them with texture and layering which give the images even more impact for this war time setting. Freya wrote about the process on her blog back in 2012 when she was working on it.
The stunning endpapers are made from foreign language editions of Sonya Hartnett's The Silver Donkey, and Morris Gleitzman's Once and Then- all books with an obvious wartime theme.
The Treasure Box is shortlisted for the 2014 CBCA Picture Book of the Year (winner to be announced August 15 2014).