Review Blog

Jun 18 2014

Edge of the world by Ian Trevaskis

cover image

Ill. by Wayne Harris. Walker Books, 2012. ISBN 9781921150210.
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Life and loss. Death. Memory. Remembrance. Sea. In the winter when snow and ice pile up around the harbour, and the men cannot go out fishing, most mend their nets, and talk of narrow escapes, all except Toby McPhee who is alone with his memories and cannot smile. Even when the ice melts and the men go out on their boats once again, still nobody smiles, thinking of what might happen before they return. The women sit in groups knitting, the children go to school unsmiling, at the village at the edge of the world.
Toby McPhee weighs anchor and goes out as well, but pulling in his nets, he captures colour. The first colour he brings home is giallo (yellow) and he brings the sun's golden rays back to the forbidding town, then he brings gremisi (crimson) and this colour too returns to the village. Each time he goes out, he pulls in another pot of colour, until he has all the colours he needs to paint a memorial to his lost family and so brings colour back to the town at the edge of the world. Once his memorial is complete he can at last smile. This is a sad tale of grief and loss, made real for Toby McPhee, but always in the hearts of the villagers, knowing their menfolk are out on the cold grey seas for days on end. The incredible illustrations reflect the feeling of time standing still until the men return, of a stillness amongst the villagers, knowing that what happened to families in the past may happen to their loved ones. I felt like I was holding my breath looking at the illustrations, waiting for something to happen to the village men out on the seas, so real is their representation.
Children will be drawn into the tale of Toby McPhee and the village, talking about what may have happened to his family, of what the men do for a living, of how cold it is. They will be drawn in by the fabulous use of words describing the village's position the edge of the world, and wonder at the illustrations so deftly making the words real.
Fran Knight

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