Tuesday 21 July 2015

My Two Blankets

My Two Blankets is a lovely picture book from newcomer Irena Kobald and the wonderful Freya Blackwood. It has been shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year in the 2015 Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. 

My Two Blankets is the story of two girls. Cartwheel was born in a war torn African country, but moves to a new country, which is never specified, and could be anywhere really, but for our purposes it's Australia of course.

We came to this country to be safe.
Everything was strange.
The people were strange. 

I've never been to Africa, but can't imagine what a culture shock it would be to move to suburban Australia. Especially if you don't have the blanket of English to wrap yourself in. Cartwheel feels these new, foreign words and sounds as a waterfall of strange sounds. If you've ever travelled anywhere where you don't understand the language at all you understand some of that feeling. Cartwheel is lonely, isolated and sad without any access to her new English speaking world. Then she meets a little girl at the park who helps her gradually cross the English speaking divide. 

My Two Blankets is a wonderful, gentle exploration of the refugee experience. Irena Kobald has said that she "had to" write this book. 

It just poured out of me in about half an hour after experiencing a special meeting with Sudanese refugees, where nobody spoke any English for several hours. 

I think this one is my favourite illustration. It reminds me a little of Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing and references to Edward Hopper and John Brack (see my review for what I mean)

Picture source

When I saw Freya Blackwood speak at the recent Bathurst Writers Festival she spoke of her work illustrating this book. To make Cartwheel and her mother stand out from their Australian surroundings she used red oil against the cooler watercolours of the background. It's certainly a very effective technique, it's really very striking. Freya wrote a great blog post about creating her illustrations for this book. I haven't finished reading all the shortlist for the Picture Book category, but I wish Freya Blackwood very well, this one definitely could win.


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