Reviews /

Ergo

Authored by Alexis Deacon
Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
Published by Walker Books

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If you need to persuade any children’s literature sceptics (let’s face it we’ve all come across them) that picture books can be beautiful, poetic and philosophically complex all at once then this would be the perfect book to have to hand.

It seems simple, Ergo (there’s a conversation to have in the class about the name before you even begin) is an unhatched yellow chick who’s trying to find out about the world and her place within it. The illustrations, like the story seem simple, with bold lines and bright colours Ergo has big, cute eyes which in themselves tell a story (reminiscent of a Jon Klassen book) and readers can note how simply changing the shape of the eye or moving the position of the pupil can reveal emotions. The first two illustrations (if you include the title page) are simply yellow pages with, in the first instance, lines to represent sleeping eyes and beak, and on the second page, wide open circular eyes accompanied with the words ‘Ergo woke up and set off to explore the world.’ In the following pages she finds her toes, wings, beak and legs, and life seems straightforward enough until Ergo begins to ask the big questions, for example, ‘AM I THE WORLD?

We follow Ergo through this journey of discovery, and of course the book invites us to map Ergo’s thought process on to our own understanding of our place in the world and how this changes as we grow and learn. For example, when Ergo notices the ‘wall’ or eggshell as we know it, she asks, ‘IS THAT ANOTHER PART OF ME?’ and we might well ask how much the buildings that surround us are ‘part’ of us. When Ergo notices a bump outside of her shell, she has a frightening epiphany, that many might empathise with, declaring ‘I AM NOT THE WORLD.’ To find the world, Ergo will have to crack her shell as she states, ‘THE TRUTH IS ON THE OTHER SIDE’ and readers will follow her journey to the final page where our narrator ends on a high with the words ‘Ergo’s life began.’

This is the most beautiful, deceptively simple story to share with readers throughout primary school. It asks the big questions about what the world means to us, how our world changes with us, where our place within it might be, and very gently suggests that to embrace the wonders of the world we will need to break out of our shells. Every class, every home, every child (and in fact adult) could do with a copy of this gorgeous book.