Crusts by Danny Parker and Matt Ottley (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781742979830
Reviewed by J Wishart
This dynamic picture book is dedicated to all those children who don’t eat their crusts. Sure to resonate with many, its main protagonist, Jacob, is not a crust-eater. His story is delivered via an engaging parallel narrative that also follows three tiny aliens from a distant planet.
The aliens need help as their small planet is crumbling. They have travelled to earth to find the right material to build it up again. When they discover Jacob’s massive stash of discarded crusts they think their problems are solved – until it comes to getting them home. The aliens try to communicate with Jacob through his drawings in the hope he will help. Jacob does start building things with his crusts, but the aliens are disappointed when he seems to be only beginning to explore his crust-fuelled creativity.
The arrangement of Ottley’s lively drawings has the look and feel of a graphic novel or comic. The use of box frames with images from various perspectives – sometimes placed over the main illustration – convey a sense of activity and the passage of time. The alien’s conversations are presented like speech bubbles, while Jacob’s narrative is presented in a conventional story format. This places the reader ‘on side’ with the aliens – observing Jacob – and increases the suspense as they wait to see what he will do next.
Crusts touches on themes such as imagination, resourcefulness, determination and vision. Even the endpapers hint at adventure that lies beyond, with their glimpse of blue sky through a small window. There is humour in the form of visual gags to entertain the observant, and the combination of dialogue, visuals and narrative aid comprehension.
Readers should enjoy the parallel stories and relate to the scenes of backyard play, invention and the ever-present childhood dilemma over what to do with those unwanted crusts.