Reviews /

The Child of Dreams

Authored by Irena Brignull
Illustrated by Richard Jones
Published by Walker Books

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The Child of Dreams is a gem of a book. As children, many of us wrote our name, address, country, continent, planet and ended our list with ‘solar system’ and ‘the universe’. It was, perhaps, our own attempt to anchor us somewhere. Maybe we wanted to satisfy our curiosity about who we are and where we belong.

Ideas of identity and belonging are at the core of this beautiful book. The front endpapers depict a large pale green expanse. The small figures of a little girl and her mother stand facing us in the lower right-hand corner. At the top of the title page, we see a similar background against which there are white silhouettes of a house and trees. The same two figures are now waving at us. At the bottom of the page are some colourful leaves. We see an adult ladybird leading three smaller ladybirds away towards the edge of the page. Fly away home? Already we have established that family, home, belonging are themes.

As the story opens, we learn that our protagonist is a young girl who lives happily with her adoring mother. However, the little girl is observant, and she notices that in nature, most creatures have two parents. She asks her mother why she doesn’t have a father. The answer sends her on a quest to find where she came from, and our story takes off too.

Jones’ illustrations are sumptuous. Contrasts abound. For instance, there are beautiful colour contrasts between warm yellows and oranges and cooler greens. Very dark forest scenes contrast with wide-open scenes and spacious layouts. He has used a matte texture and palette of colour throughout, and they provide an earthiness that is contrasted with the shining metallic detail on the cover. His large portrait of the mother and child is beautiful. Overall, the message conveyed in both text and images is summed up in the final endpapers.

Teachers will find The Child of Dreams a beneficial resource for discussing belonging and identity and family. It is worth noting that the back endpapers depict an inclusive variety of families. There are animal groups and human groups. These include single parents and same-sex parents, as well as conventional two-parent families.