Review Blog

Jun 14 2019

The visitor by Antje Damm

cover image

Trans. by Sally-Anne Spencer. Gecko Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781776571895.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Loneliness, Friendship. First published in Germany in 2015, this is another 'curiously good book' to be published by New Zealand house, Gecko Press. Their books promise 'good heart and strong character' and in this book, we see just that. Elise lives alone in her dark, gloomy house. She is frightened of everything: spiders, people and even tress, and never goes outside, preferring to clean her house every morning until it is spotless. She sometimes opens a window to let in some fresh air, and one morning, a piece of paper flies in. She is nonplussed, and scoops the paper plane into the fire. But she has bad dreams that night about the piece of paper taking over her house. The next morning she is startled by a knock at the door and opening it finds a young boy looking for his paper plane. He searches the house, asking questions of Elise and for the first time in a long time she sits and reads to him. They do all sorts of things together until he must return home, but that night, Elise makes a paper plane, a remembrance of the day and hope of things to come.
This delightful story of friendship, reflected in the sorrowful life of Elise, revitalised by the simple paper plane will resonate with younger children as they read of the growing friendship between Elise and the boy. The wonderful illustrations reflect the developing friendship, colour coming into her world as the boy goes upstairs, turning the stairway red, they read and the room becomes radiant, a stark contrast to the greys of her house before the boy entered. I love the cut out effect, black and white images placed against the greys and browns of the house, the boy bringing in colour, the pink coming into her cheeks just like the picture of her as a young girl on the stairwell. The endpapers show what can be achieved through friendship, and will trigger responses from the readers. This book, a New York Time best illustrated book, will lead to many discussions about older people living alone, grandparents who may not see their grandchildren very often, the relationship between youth and age, and would be a natty addition to Grandparents' Day, an annual celebration in Australia during October.
Fran Knight

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