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

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Review: The Scar

If you’re after an opening line that shoves a manlike fist straight through your ribcage and grabs your heart in a vice-like grip, then The Scar is it.

Mum died this morning.

These words … are they too big to fit inside the pages of a children’s picture book? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps it’s not until you’re an adult, with a lifetime of pain and loss behind you, that the true weight of such a line holds such impact.

For children, death is a relative concept. It has a finality, sure, but just how final? Perhaps only decades of life experience can delineate how much – and just how truly wounding its conclusiveness.

Perhaps children will also be unable to fully appreciate the angry, desolate, screaming, heart-wrenched child, kicking toys and stomping around the initial pages of this book. Ditto the child sitting on a chair with his head hung low, being more alone than alone could ever be … Can a child reading this book really feel that pain?

Honestly, I had to push myself to read this book. Not because I didn’t want to follow this little boy’s journey of loss, but because I wondered how anything could be more heartbreaking for a mother (who also lost her own mother far too early) to read.

How will this lad ever teach Dad how to make the right toast – cut in half with a honey zigzag? How will he ever remember her face, her smell? Shut the house tight, close all the windows so her smell won’t disappear? Who will hold him close and tell him he’ll soon get better when he scrapes his knee?

When our wee man does indeed scrape his knee, there is no mother physically in sight to soothe his pain, but ... there! a voice! He can hear her soothing him! So he deliberately picks the scab to keep it bleeding and fresh – then perhaps he will always hear his mother’s voice  - always - always.

As the days and weeks and months pass, the scent of coffee begins to fill the house in the morning. The radio comes on again. Life is returning to ‘normal’ and when the little boy wakes one morning to see his knee scab has become a shiny, new-skin scar, he knows exactly what will help him remember his mum.

I’m not sure you’ll be able to read this book to your child without having some kid of emotional breakdown, so read it alone first – several times, until you can get through it without becoming a blubbering mess.

And be prepared to develop a shiny, new-skin scar on your heart.

Title: The Scar
Author: Charlotte Moundlic
Illustrator: Olivier Tallec
Publisher: Walker Books, $27.95
Publication Date: 2 October 2011
ISBN:  9781406335958
Format: Hard cover
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book