Sunday 10 April 2022

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis (Walker Books) PB RRP $27.99 ISBN 978 1 4063925 1 7 

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Jarvis’ books for Walker have sold 1.2 million copies worldwide and are published into 15 different languages. His writing is simplistic, yet powerful, and his artwork is expressive, sparse, and impactful.

David is the boy with flowers in his hair. He’s a sweet, gentle boy, loved by everyone. His fragility is shown when his flowers begin to fall – slowly at first, then every blossom. His best friend never leaves his side. He loves and supports him until he finds his bloom again. 

Jarvis writes with such simplicity and impact. His name is David. He’s the boy with flowers in his hair and he’s my best friend. The magic of the text lies in the layers of meaning it conveys. Dependent upon the reader’s level of understanding they can go to the depth of understanding that suits them. The text makes every word earn its place and gives character insight and voice. That afternoon, he didn’t want to play. The reader is left to make their own conclusion as to why David lost his flowers. It could be due to cancer, emotional ill-health, or something else. Jarvis knows how to make an impact at all the right moments with short simple sentences. He was quiet. David was never quiet. His characters have strong voices that speak sensitively to a reader’s heart. Personality matters and Jarvis showcases this brilliantly.

The vibrant illustrations speak volumes with their simplistic strokes and emotive mood tones. Jarvis knows how to use the white space and gives the illustrations room to speak. The book is mostly double page spreads to draw the eye to focal points and into the story. The vignettes show personality and action. The tone and movement heighten the emotion in the story. I particularly love the double page spread of David forlornly holding a flower and walking along through all his lost flowers. The eye is immediately drawn straight to David and the flowers on the ground. In an instant the emotion is all there. The faces are so simple, yet each little dot or stroke is powerful. The strong friendship between the two children is evident on every page turn. The endpapers are a bright blue background with light blue flowers.  

The Boy with Flowers in His Hair is a thoughtful picture book for children aged 3 years and up. With its strong themes of friendship and acceptance of differences, it is sure to find its way onto many bookshelves in libraries, schools, and homes.

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