Here is a little fellow whose ‘head is filled with wonder.’
He’s great at noticing the wonders in his world, things like birds flying, clouds, and stars.
He’s great at asking questions too, like ‘what the best playground in the world might be like.’
He’s a boy who is not perishing for want of wonder, but he is constantly told to move on, to pay attention, to stop daydreaming.
Until... he finds himself in art class, where he’s invited to use his imagination. As he begins to draw, his wonderings find their way into his art.
It’s a wonderful way for him to share what is in his head and heart.
The pictures of the boy as he plods through his day, wondering, are lovely. They are soft and almost monochrome, making the contrast with the pictures of his imagination all the more vivid and exciting.
Once he starts exploring his own imagination, the pages burst into colour. The pictures are full of life and movement and joy. (But somehow the early pictures of the boy's simple life are my favourites!)
This is a really special story – it’s a reminder that the children in our lives need to explore the things they wonder about and that wondering is a gift.
It also serves to remind adults to do a little more wondering themselves - and for a child there is vindication for all those daydreamy moments or for unanswerable questions.
I have a caution though: the art teacher here is accepting and encouraging, as are the boy’s parents - the other adults, however, are not so. They are quite limiting and confrontational.
Were I an art teacher or a parent, I think I’d be happy with my characterisation, not so much if I were a science teacher, a lollipop lady, a bus driver, a park keeper or a form teacher. They are characterised less flatteringly as being gruff, bossy and without imagination.
So it’s important, I think, to get the tone right when reading this story aloud. There’s a certain comic reading available by going into strictly over-the-top voices for the adults who don’t understand the wondering – and that might do the trick to keep those characters valuable and respected.
Alternatively, you could simply read their words with softness and concern and a sly nod to them trying to be tough while really caring for the boy. (It’s trickier to convey all that in a tone of voice – but worth a little bit of practice to get it right.)
I saw this book in the Art Gallery of NSW bookshop and it made it to the top of my buying pile because the message that wondering is wonderful is so very important in a world full of strife.
And because it is divine to look at and fun to read.