The Big Sleep

Big_Sleep2 Philip Marlowe is the mould from which Bond was cast. In an era when gentlemen were served over easy, Chandler delivered his protagonist hard-boiled.

“I was wearing my powder-blue suit… I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

Raymond Chandler is synonymous with classic crime fiction. The Big Sleep comes at you laced with ribbons of  noir style detective work and a voice that resonates long after the barrel has stopped smoking.



The Boy and the Toy

the boyHartnett and Masciullo join forces to create an insightful critique of humanities biological vs. mechanical engagement with the world around them. In a subtle way these authors are challenging the x-box generation to reconnect with the living world. The Boy and the Toy is visually reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s work and also deals with the idea of an alienated object or ‘thing’. Interestingly, the fate of the Toy remains unresolved within the text and can be viewed as ‘the other’ within the world of the inventor. Much like Frankenstein’s monster the Toy is created and discarded, as it will never be “a good friend to you.”



The Two Bullies



The distinctly Asian design and layout of The Two Bullies creates a sense of authenticity within Morimoto’s work.  Using an upright, calendar layout, allows The Two Bullies to retain vertical connection to the original Japanese script from which it has been translated. Within the picture book Morimoto explores the nature of fear and control and indicates that the appearance of power is often as effective as power itself. The use of subsequent zooming and low angle drawings accentuates the power of the two bullies and emphasises the dominant position they hold within their respective societies. By transforming a cultural myth into a picture book, Morimoto is validating the medium of visual text as a conduit for cultural construct.



The Heart in the Bottle


Oliver Jeffers proves with his text The Heart in the Bottle that a picture book is capable of dealing with the most sophisticated of ideas. Themes of pain, loss and grief are all encapsulated in his emotive work of hope and healing. Jeffers uses curiosity and wonder as catalysists for recovery and new dreams. Interestingly, Jeffers never mentions the word death. The father’s absence is simply stated as “she found an empty chair”, dark shades and the motif of night time are used to emphasise the sense of loss that accompany this moment. The Heart and the Bottle closes with circularity in recognising that “the chair wasn’t empty any more.”



The Arrival



Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a partially autobiographical picture book in which all communication with the reader takes place through visual text. The shifting tonality between sepia and grey scale images alerts the reader to shifts in narrative focalisation within The Arrival. Tan has deliberately modelled the protagonist’s appearance after his own, in order to capture the essence of the universal immigrant experience that can be seen as emblematic of all settler groups.  Visual metaphor is used extensively throughout The Arrival, the sub-sequent panels create a sense of movement and shifting perspective in which image is used to represent idea. The juxtaposition between fear and hope, isolation and community, allows Tan to create a sense of journey within The Arrival. Also, the blending of natural and constructed imagery imbues Tan’s picture book with a surreal yet tangible impression of his symbolic landscape. G


The Enemy



The Enemy is a timely reminder of the universal nature of the human spirit and the need for empathy in the face of conflict. Bloch and Cali use an expanse of white space to represent the futility of war and position the reader to appreciate the emptiness that results from hatred. The colour red is used to emphasis key moments of violence and hate within The Enemy. Interestingly, the “manual” is also coloured red highlighting the violence of false propaganda. In essence, Bloch and Cali’s picture book is a plea for readers to recognise the futility of war and see the “man” rather than the “monster” when looking at “the enemy”.


The Lost Thing


Having spent time with Shaun Tan in a small group workshop shortly after the publication of The Lost Thing, this picture book held great appeal to me as I re-read it recently. The layers of meaning and blending of visual/verbal text within his work, allow Tan to engage with a truly diverse readership. The Lost Thing within Tan’s picture book is emblematic of a number of social and political concerns. A social inability to appreciate the lost things in life, serves as the catalyst for Tan’s dystopic appropriation of Jeffrey Smart’s cityscapes. Tan himself acknowledges Smart on the final page of The Lost Thing, where in tiny upside down writing, we find “apologies to Jeffrey Smart.”  Tan’s critique of modern consumerism and hyper industrialised living creates a vivid reminder that what is lost must be found.