My two blankets by Irena Kobald

cover image

Ill. by Freya Blackwood. Little Hare, 2014. ISBN 9781921714764.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. A perfect tale of acceptance, sees Cartwheel coming to Australia from Africa, where she and her Aunt were unsafe. In her new country she often hides under her old blanket, a large, warm blanket that reflects her home, full of recognisable words and feelings, a place of shelter and refuge, a metaphorical blanket which wraps the child in its familiarity.
Outside their house she cannot understand the waterfall of words, or cope with the new that crowds in on her. At a park where she and her aunt go, another child waves and smiles. She is not there the next day but soon after she sees her again, and this time she is invited to share the swing. Over a period of time, the new girl shares some words with Cartwheel, so adding a small new blanket to her old one, and as they become better acquainted, the new blanket grows and grows, with new words added and practised and learnt. Friendship helps her accept the new world and the mammoth change to her life.
Blackwood's illustrations are just wonderful. The soft warm colours of Australia contrast with the bright sun filled colours of Africa, colours that Cartwheel and her aunt bring with them. I love her trees, with the art deco feel, and the drawings of the machinery of cities, the factories, the trains, contrasting vividly with the smallness of life for the women, time spent at the park, the gentleness of that space contrasting again with the overwhelming body of people on the streets. On other pages contrasts are given, watch out for the size of Cartwheel and her aunt in the crowd, or the things drawn into her new blanket, common words found and learnt as she becomes more confident in her friendship, and acceptance of her new life.
This is a wonderful book, giving more each time it is read, showing more as the illustrations are admired and dwelled upon, revealing more about the people coming anew to our shores and the welcome offered to them. And Frey Blackwood's website offers insight into the way she approached the story.
Fran Knight