Wednesday 21 December 2016


KidGlovz by Julie Hunt, illustrated by Dale Newman (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 978 174238527

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Here is a graphic novel, both fable and saga, which is illustrated in black and white throughout. Its readership would appear to be for children aged 8 to 12 years, and it might also have appeal for older, reluctant readers.

KidGlovz is a musical genius, a wonder child. His gift is so precious that he is kept under lock and key by his ‘Uncle’ Dr Spin who manages his concert career and has insured his fingers for a six figure sum. Spin also starves the boy to keep him small. It's a miserable life for the boy who just wants to play his own compositions.

Although Newman was short-listed for the 2016 Crichton Award for New Illustrators, she missed out on first prize. But there is no denying her talent. The KidGlovz realistic illustrations – in soft black pencil and sometimes ink wash – are quite extraordinary.  So, too, is the book design. The illustrative story is framed and presented not only in conventionally, but in a wide variety of interesting ways. Sometimes the story can be read from left to right in a ‘road’ that weaves across the page and back, or in a full or double-page spread, or in a series of unframed illustrations.  Every single page is interesting and shows so much talent. The whole story is told through speech and thoughts, both  presented in bubbles.

Based on her son, Newman’s portrayal of nine year old Kid shows an alone and lonely child who dreams big. He grieves the loss of Lovegrove, his first piano teacher. His guardian Dr Spin is seen (and speaks) malevolently; he’s a true bully and opportunist. A chance to escape comes when Kid forms a friendship of sorts with Shoestring, a tightrope walker and thief, who is keen to make the grade with his Uncle's gang by kidnapping the boy prodigy. 

Plans go awry; the boys make their escape and after playing on a piano disastrously with an injured hand, Kid and his friend end up in a fantastical underworld of giant shepherds, the Brothers Caprine, who live on Goat Mountain and rescue the boys. There's a faithful dog, Hugo, an invisible rope, fortune tellers, dreamers and more. All through his incredible adventures, Kid mourns the loss of his music. ‘I’m nothing without my music. My life is over,’ he says.

The saga continues, but happily all ends with a much yearned-for reunion. Then Kid faces his ‘Uncle’ who has committed fraud. This book has a long and fairly complicated plot but any reader who enjoys a battle of good versus bad is likely to be rewarded.

Published in 2015, KidGlovz won the 2016 Queensland Literary Awards.

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