Saturday 12 September 2015

Suri’s Wall

Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley (Penguin/Viking) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN9780670077755

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Suri would appear to be an orphan living in an orphanage in a walled town. A much taller child than her counterparts, she is friendless but finds comfort as she brushes the stones of the encompassing wall with her fingertips. ‘The wall was Suri’s only friend and the touch of the stones gave her warmth.’

One day, finding herself taller, Lucy finally sees over the wall. It is then that one of the orphans, Eva, befriends her and asks Suri to describe what is beyond the walls of the town. What Suri describes is not written by revealed by Ottley’s exquisite painted illustrations. There is a golden arch, a peacock, butterflies, a harbour filled with ships and much more. Now that she can see beyond into another world, Suri is finally befriended by the orphans and continues with her storytelling. Towards the end of the book a soldier says to Suri, ‘They will find out, you know.’ Who the ‘they’ is remains a mystery, but surely it must be the higher powers that guard the town.

The theme of this book would seem to be that one becomes popular and a leader by having a wider vision of the world. And that this can be a threat to some who would prefer the lesser beings to remain imprisoned. The only way out of imprisonment is to see beyond, into the future. One wonders, though, would a child reader understand this? What would a small child make of this book, one wonders.

What does make this book memorable are the illustrations. When the setting is inside the imprisoned (walled) world, the mood of the watercolour pictures is gloomy, but the artist’s palette sings with colour and detail when Suri’s visions are revealed. Towards the end of the book the children hear a booming sound – perhaps it is a signal of disaster to come; it’s difficult to imagine what it might be and there is nothing to indicate what it is. In the final page, Suri simply continues describing the world beyond.

It’s also difficult to tell what age group this book is targeted towards, but the reading level indicates that a child 8+ years ought to be able to read it.

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