Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Light

The Light by Jo Oliver (New Frontier Publishing)
HB RRP $24.95
ISBN 9781921928413
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Jo Oliver’s love affair with the sea continues and her skill as an author and illustrator takes the reader with her as we are introduced to the lighthouse keeper and his family. The closeness of the family is evident as they spend their time together doing chores, schoolwork and spending leisure time together. The isolation of the island seems almost a gift to them.

The harsh but beautiful landscape and music are interwoven throughout the story. Father plays his fiddle, Loulou plays her tin whistle on the rocks while watching seals bask in the sun, and as a storm brews in the evening, the family joins together for songs as Mother’s piano playing joins the whistle and fiddle. The storm delivers a shipwrecked crew of four to their door, guided to safety by the light and the music.

Jo Oliver’s illustrations perfectly complement the tone of the story and extend the sparse, poetic text to further draw the reader into this other world. The illustrations are solar plate etchings. They are a non-chemical way of producing an etching plate from a drawing using sunlight. The plate is then inked, wiped and printed using an etching press. The ink on the surface of the plate gives tonal depth in addition to the etched lines. The prints are then hand coloured with watercolour. 

The backdrop of sheet music for some illustration spreads further highlights how essential music is to this family. While first and foremost an illustrator, Oliver’s writing skills are exemplary. She sets a sense of foreboding within only a few deftly crafted sentences in the lead up to the storm. I highly recommend this book for school, home and public libraries.

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