The Curiosities – Zana Frallion/Phil Lesnie

Standard

Hachette

SEP 29, 2021 | 9780734417848 | RRP $26.99

Imprint: Lothian Books

I think I am right in saying that this is the first picture book I have reviewed inspired by a child with Tourette’s Syndrome and while that is not explicit in either text or illustrations, the underlying theme of recognising, accepting and celebrating differences is tremendously important.

This is a sophisticated book in all senses so my inclination is that it is more suitable for sharing with older children, with whom one would be able to fully explore and unpack the subtleties both written and visual. Indeed, the teachers’ resources file is full of splendid suggestions for doing this providing a very handy guideline for either library or classroom.

The narrative blends the idea of divergent neurological behaviour with Filipino mythology, creating the ‘curiosities’ based on figures from this folklore. The illustrations have a very ethereal/other worldly feel to them, easily conveying the sense of the ‘invisibility’ of some disabilities (something with which I am well acquainted. They are very beautifully rendered (I think this might be my first encounter with Phil’s work and I will definitely be looking out for more).

Miri wakes one morning to discover things around him are now somehow different. It seems the Curiosities have chosen him and lead him to all kinds of discoveries and marvels although sometimes the make him feel very along. From one connection with an Elder, others unravelled and soon, Miri does not feel quite so isolated – and at times, the Curiosities leave him altogether for a while.

This is definitely a multi-layered text and if in a library collection, there will be children, no doubt, who will pick it up and read it at face value, but I believe it’s greater value is in sharing with students and leading them to a greater understanding of diversity, and ways in which they might connect with others.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 4 upwards and certainly for classroom enrichment experiences.

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