Pierre's not there by Ursula Dubosarsky
Illus. by Christopher Nielsen. Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN:
(Age: 8-12) Highly recommended. Going with her mother to clean an empty house, Lara sees a boy watching from the attic window. And going upstairs takes her into the most magical of adventures, as she becomes part of his puppet show, in an attempt to find his grandmother home. The unusual boy, Pierre, dressed like a puppet himself escaped after seeing his family eaten by wolves, and must find his grandmother but he has no idea where she lives. Pierre has an antique puppet theatre in the attic. Wanting to help Lara is transformed into a dog, another of the puppets, and Pierre uses his puppets to tell the story of his parents being eaten. He initially thinks Lara is a wolf, and is very wary of her, and as the story progresses, Lara wavers between thinking of herself as a wolf or a dog or even a girl. Along their strange journey they meet an old horse who joins them as does a princess who takes them back to her castle to wake her father. Each of the events on their journey has vague links to fairytales and will initiate recognition and laughter as the story is moulded.
Told in a play format with stage directions, acts and speech attributed to one or the other of the players, this story is wonderfully engrossing, and serves as a model for children to create their own plays or read this novel as a play script.
Australian Children's Laureate, Dubosarsky, is an inspired writer of fanciful stories many of which are awarded at annual competitions in Australia and overseas. Nielsen is a Sydney based illustrator who has added another layer of interest and fun with his drawings of Pierre and Lara searching for his grandmother via the puppet theatre. Teacher's notes are available.
Themes: Humour, Family, Fairy tales, Puppets, Theatre.