'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Review: Once There Was a Boy

Once there was a boy. Who lived on an island. All alone. The boy lived right on the beach in an ancient boat made from an ancient tree. He ate fruit that tasted like chocolate and climbed mangrove trees and loved to watch the sun light up the sea.

Then one day, a stranger comes to the island. It's a young girl who eats all the chocolate fruit and sleeps in the boy's hammock and when she wakes in the morning, she finds a note from the boy asking her NOT to look in the box under his bed.

Of course, what does she do? She looks in the box... and there she finds the boy's heart.

The boy returns suddenly and startles the girl. She drops the heart and is breaks into pieces. Horrified, the girl runs away. What will the boy do now, with a useless, broken heart?

On the endpapers of this book, we see a crystalline ocean with an odd, golden shape lying on the sand bed. I remember staring in curiosity at this shape when I first opened the book, wondering what on earth it could be. Of course, it was a piece of the boy's heart and it was so lovely to make that connection once I'd read through the story.

This is a simply beautiful and beautifully simple book. Visual artist Dub (David) Leffler, an animator, muralist and art teacher, has created a visually evocative and emotionally-charged book in Once There Was a Boy.

His lucid, limpid and languid illustrations are a celebration of the raw beauty of island life - with sky, sand and sea so illustriously washed across each page, you can feel the grains of sand between your toes, the salty ocean lick your feet and the warmth of coastal air on your skin.

It's a joy to wander through this book and stare at the images, oftentimes wordless, and feel the freedom and space between the boy and the rest of the world... that is, of course... until the girl comes along.

Beautiful. And good for the heart.

Title: Once There Was a Boy
Author/Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Publisher: Magabala Books, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: 31 October 2011
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9781921248375
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture book