Footpath Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 27.99
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
I love wordless picture books. They are like a search-and-find experience; a voyage of discovery. They allow the reader scope to expand their imagination and translate what they see. It’s almost a create-your-own-story. If an adult feels this way, imagine how much children will get out of this book.
A girl is out with her father. He appears to be oblivious to what is going on around him. The girl seems to be just a tag-along.
She though, is alert and observant. While he is walking blindly towards his destination and talking on his mobile, the girl is taking in the world around her.
She collects colourful flowers growing from corners of the footpath, beneath poles where bikes are tied, from cracks in the walls and footpaths. She looks at coloured bottles, and sees the beauty in small things. Her bunch of flowers grows.
Till this point, the illustrations are all in black ink. The only colour is the girl’s coat and hood which is bright red, and the flowers which she clutches in her hand.
They enter a park. The trees are stark and bare. The girl sees a dead bird. She bobs down to look at it and places some of the flowers on its chest. Here the scene changes and colour enters the picture while the father and child are presented in dark shadow. The bird is in full colour. She has given the bird something of herself along with the flowers.
From this point on there is a great shift in the girl and the man. Colourful watercolour images spill onto the pages. They pass an old man sleeping on a bench. The girl leaves him flowers. She stops to pat a dog on the way and places flowers in his collar.
They are close to home. The change in the man is extraordinary. He has come home to his family. A woman waits at the door. Children are in the yard. A baby is asleep in a pram. Flowers are everywhere.
The girl looks up at birds flying in the sky. She seems to be remembering the bird in the park. She’s holding one last daisy in her hand and appears to be overcome with sadness. All the things she’s encountered including the flowers are small like her.
This beautiful book by award-winning poet JonArno Lawson is illustrated by the highly talented Sydney Smith whose talent is obvious from the stunning cover and end papers. It tells of the joy found in random acts of kindness; in the small things around us, and the way children find beauty in the simplest things. It’s ideal for the 4+ years age group, adult and child sharing and discussion; and for collectors of outstanding picture books.