Review Blog

Jun 22 2012

Luke's way of looking by Nadia Wheatley

cover image

Ill. by Matt Ottley. Walker books, 2012. ISBN 9781 921977 72 5.
(Ages: All) Highly recommended. Picture book. Difference.
Walker Books has reprinted dozens of Australian classics, and this is another superb publication, an award winner, which will intrigue readers all over again, probably replacing an old well used copy on the library shelves, while introducing it to younger teachers.
The story of Luke, derided by a teacher and some of the students for his art which is not confined to the strictures of the teacher, has huge appeal. There are all sorts of layers here to think about and discuss: the issue of bullying, people's different ways of seeing the same thing, imagination, individuality, being true to oneself amongst others. Luke remains true to his own version of what he sees, although he cannot explain it, eventually staying away from school. On this day he visits the local art gallery, and sees for the first time, the works of others who see things as he does. Bolstered in his own individual way of seeing things, her returns to school a much happier student, able to retain his individuality and belief in himself.
Writing down what I feel about the book underlines to me even more Nadia Wheatley's consummate skill at portraying Luke and his 'way of looking' succinctly and precisely. The words I have used seem lame compared with Wheatley's prose and the way each sentence is constructed, having a particular place while promoting thought in the overall story.
The illustrations are pure magic. The incredible image on the first two pages of the overbearing teacher, his hand reflected largely on the wall behind them, the group of boys almost cowering under his influence leads the reader into his derision of Luke's artworks, the small boy and his work minute under the teacher's looming form on the next pages. Luke strays from school, taking the tram to the Art Gallery where he sees things he has never seen before. Colour becomes more important on each page as Luke's spirit is lifted, the images themselves are joyous and positive, the people on the bus home, welcoming and interested. Returning to school sees a return to the sepia of the first few pages, but then Luke's colour takes over, and it is the teacher whose image is reduced. The juxtaposition of full page illustrations, smaller framed illustrations, the way the print lies on the page, all add to the myriad of talking points this wonderful book promotes. And this new edition provides editorial comment from Dr Robyn Morrow, Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley, adding another level of discussion for students, readers, parents and teachers to digest, think about and consider.
Fran Knight

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