Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Cuckoo

The Cuckoo by Gary Crew, illustrated by Naomi Turvey (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $29.95
PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 9781925000177
PB ISBN 9781925000184
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

The Cuckoo by Gary Crew, illustrated by Naomi Turvey
(Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $29.95
PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 9781925000177
PB ISBN 9781925000184
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Before I even opened the pages of The Cuckoo, I was intrigued. The haunting image of animal bones woven amongst Australian natives on the cover made me desperate to read the latest offering from one of Australia’s leading authors for youth, Gary Crew. And from that very first striking image right to the very last page, The Cuckoo kept me captivated and awe.

I was left with one word at the end of my first and second and third readings of this delicate fable: WOW. That’s all I kept thinking, a heavy and heartfelt WOW. But I realise a one word review will not suffice and so I have made my best attempt to put into words what makes this story so beautiful, provocative, striking and captivating.

It is the fable of a young boy named Martin. Martin is the runt of the family, abandoned by his mother and ridiculed by his father and brothers. He seeks comfort and friendship in the native birds, the forests and bush. But one evening, when a pair of eagles collect his brothers with their vicious talons and feed the boys’ bodies to their offspring, Martin’s world changes forever. His father, wishing it were Martin who was taken, convinces Martin it was he who bore the responsibility of his father’s sorrow.

And so Martin runs, seeking solitude in the valley. While roaming the valley, Martin discovers that the birds he had once befriended had self-sacrificed themselves to the baby eagles. Martin decides to take on the persona of an eaglet, covering himself in feathery down and honey sap, and determined to begin again. Raised in the eaglet’s nest, Martin’s body grows as sleek as the eagles that nurtured him. One day, he takes off, his wings soaring through the sky. But it is there that he spots his father on the edge of the cliff, crying of his loss and his arrogance and the hardness of his own heart that drove everyone away, even Martin. His sorrow and remorse touches Martin and he swoops down, collects his father and flies toward the sun.

The Cuckoo is so undeniably rich in folklore and morality that it is near impossible to remain untouched by its strong messages of independence, forgiveness, loss and family. And while these messages are strong in their own right, it is Crew’s language that truly captures the reader. Every word, every sentence, every dot of punctuation is poignant and unforgettable. It is poetry that sings and soars like the eagles in the story.

And one must not forget the illustrations of Naomi Turvey, which make this fable even richer and deeper with illustrations so delicately crafted with black and white ink and the soft hues of pink and blue pastels that look washed with watercolours. Her illustrations are simultaneously telling and alluring.


This book will be remembered for years to come and is an important tale for teaching people about the hardship of love and loss, and human beings capacity for forgiveness. It is absolutely WOW. 

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