Review Blog

Apr 29 2014

The cuckoo by Gary Crew

cover image

Ill. by Naomi Turvey. Ford St, 2014. ISBN 9781925000177.
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Redemption, Forgiveness, Father-son relationships. A fantastical moral tale will greet the readers who open these pages, magnificently illustrated by newcomer, Naomi Turvey.
Deep in the Blue Mountains lives a forester and his family. His first born sons are replicas of himself, strong and fearless, but his third son is puny, a runt, and derided by the men in the family. When his wife leaves, the man does not question the reason and continues his derision of the boy, Martin.
But one day when fire has ravaged the hills, the eagles look for food for their young and spying the older boys take them off to their nest. Martin's father is distraught, saying predictable things to his now only son, and so the boy leaves. He finds the remains of a fledgeling eagle and donning its feathers in the form of a cape, climbs the treacherous cliff to the nest where he joins the eaglets in calling for food from the adult birds. He grows into a magnificent eagle, and later spying his father mourning the loss of his wife, sons and Martin because of his inability to love them for what they are, swoops down and takes him upon his back before the man throws himself into the valley below.
Children and young adults will love this tale of redemption, of a father admitting his shortcomings, of the son forgiving him despite all that has happened. They will love the story of the cuckoo taking a young bird's place in the nest and the parallels to this story and will look for the themes of this tale in the illustrations. Turvey has used a wonderful pen and ink style of illustration reminiscent of wood block illustrations of old, underlining the morality of a tale which transcends time. She has built in patches of colour which add a tiny difference to some pages, making the eyes look again at the page. She has framed the illustrations, giving them an aged appearance, and sometimes drawn part of the illustration outside the frame, drawing the eye across the page. As hard as it is to pick out pages which resonate with me, and will with other readers, I must point out the wonderful tall, soaring trees taking more than their fair share of the frame on the page, and the gum nuts reminiscent of May Gibbs, and the child cowering by his father's boot. The language and illustrations coalesce, making this a book to treasure in the classroom, library or home.
Fran Knight

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