The City by Armin Greder
Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN: 978 1742371429.
(Ages 10 and up) Highly recommended. 'The most beautiful son a mother could wish for' is born to a woman, living in a city in which grey winters seem to last for years. Having lost her husband in the war and wanting to protect her beloved child at all costs, she leaves the city and goes to an isolated place where she builds a house in which they can live. When some travelers arrive, having lost their way from the city, the boy expresses a desire to visit the city. His mother's only response is to love him even more until 'one moonless night she died'. The boy must then learn to take control of his own destiny.
Looking very much like his award winning book, The Island, this new title uses Greder's familiar style of illustration. Most of the pictures are done in charcoal and somber tones until the arrival of the strangers brings the addition of colour and vibrancy. The concept that isolation or living apart from society can give a sense of security is evident in both books. Here, however, the boy overcomes the fear and insecurities created by his overly controlling, albeit loving, mother to venture out into the world. Perhaps this is more of a cautionary tale for parents, warning them to prepare and socialise their children rather than closeting them away.
Greder's work is always thought provoking, powerful and challenging and this is no exception. Although it is not a title which children would necessarily seek out, it will be another which teachers will use with classes to illustrate such concepts as independence, confidence and coming of age.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School