Thursday 8 March 2012

Edge of the World

Edge of the World by Ian Trevaskis, illustrated by Wayne Harris (Walker Books)
HB RRP $29.95
ISBN – 978-1-921150-21-0
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

‘Snowdrifts piled high against the breakwater’, of the village near the edge of the world. This village, however, was bleak for many reasons. One was that villagers had to rely on cheating nature’s dangerous elements to ensure their livelihood. While ‘wind shrieked and howled through its empty streets’  fishermen mended their nets and boats so they could fish for their families. Toby, whose family was stolen by tragedy, did not join in. This story’s text and illustrations leave readers in no doubt as to why this village shivered ‘beneath a blanket of snow’.

Early pages end with the refrain ‘nobody smiled in the village near the edge of the world’, drawing readers into a life where the sea’s danger is ever present and means wives and children spend weeks hoping the fishermen will return. One morning Toby takes his boat out alone. When he hauls in his net he finds a tiny pot with the word Giallo on it. At home, under lantern light, he removes the lid, dips in his finger, and views a splotch of yellow paint on it.

Toby paints parts of the village yellow, bringing smiles to the fishermen on their return. Each day he sails, finding another pot; Cremisi, Scarlatto, Verdi di Linfa, Blu Oltremare and Vermillion. He uses them all to paint more colour on the stone houses, church, school and lighthouse. Every addition renews life in Toby. It also renews it in others, as does the return of their husbands, fathers and sons. His final painting, on the lighthouse, is a dedication in memory of his wife, son and daughter who were taken by the sea.

Wayne Harris, illustrator of many award winning books, skillfully blends light and colour into this work to show the gradual process of healing in both Toby and the town. His pictures, and Trevaskis’ breathtaking text, show how time, light and small sprigs of joy can gradually remove the darkness of tragedy and help people to heal. The meaningful and detailed pictures combine with the author’s poetic use of language to create atmosphere and instill emotion in readers. This gentle tale is a privilege to read over and again.

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