Sunday, May 1, 2016

Teacup by Rebecca Young illustrated by Matt Ottley

I would like to start this review with a quote from Matt Ottley (found in the Australian Standing Orders notes Primary Picture Book No. 3, 2015)

Matt Ottley says :

"What spoke to me most about Teacup was quite simply that it was the most beautiful picture book story I'd ever read.  It is such a huge story about the human spirit, about loss and grief, love and joy, about beauty and also high adventure.  Yet it's told in such a spare, minimal way, like a piece of poetry, that there was room for me to interpret the words in so many ways, 
which is an artist's dream."

Teacup is the third book by Rebecca Young and a look at her previous titles (Button Boy and The skunk with no funk) you can see how much she is developing as an author. Teacup is such a profound text and so different from her earlier books.

"Once there was a boy who had to leave home and find another"

There is so much to discuss from these opening lines.  Why did he have to leave?  Who will travel with him?  Will it be a long journey?  Will there be dangers?  Where is he going?

"In his bag he carried .. "

What would you take?  Would this change if you had plenty of time to prepare?  What would you take if you only have a few minutes to flee?

"he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket.  In his teacup held some earth from where he used to play."

This line reminds me of an old book called The Green book which is about people from Earth who are forced to flee to live on a different planet.  While the people do take practical things to set up the new colony there is one little girl who takes a blank book. In Teacup, the boy also takes the practical things for his survival along with his cup.  Teacup also reminded me of Tanglewood. Not just because of the tree and the wild seas but because of the tone - hope for the future.

"where he used to play"

These are such chilling words. The pieces of text I have quoted here come from the first double page spread which should show the amazing depth of this writing.  I think it will be important to read this book very slowly and to explore it several times.

I am really looking forward to discussing this book with my senior students.  I know they will have brilliant ideas that move beyond the literal.  I also know that my own appreciation of this book will grow even stronger as my students share their insights.

I also plan to compare this book from the CBCA Notables list with Flight which has also been nominated along with another important refugee story -  Ziba came by boat.  We will also look at The treasure box by Margaret Wild and My Dog by John Heffernan - both titles from previous CBCA short lists.  These both deal with the trauma of leaving your home and travelling into the unknown.

It might be good to compare the page with the ominous clouds with the page in The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Teacup is sure to be short listed for the CBCA Picture book of the Year award.  I cannot decide if Teacup or Flight will win - perhaps there might be two winners for 2016!

Here is a set of very detailed teacher notes.

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