The Cuckoo by Gary Crew
Ill. by Naomi Turvey. Ford St Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9781925000177.
Recommended. Picture book for older children. About twenty-five years ago, Gary Crew was my oldest daughter's drama teacher. My middle daughter was great mates with Gary's son, as they were mischief makers in the same primary class. When Gary's first novel was published within 18 months of that time, I naturally was interested and intrigued to read it. I have been an avid reader of Gary's work ever since and have enjoyed many of his presentations at conferences or local news interviews over the years.
There is no doubt at all that Gary's novels are powerful and compelling but in my opinion it is his own passion for illustrated books that give even more impact to his 'picture books'.
The Cuckoo is somewhat dark - even bleak- but explores themes all too common and pertinent. Bullying, neglected and abused children, forgiveness, independence and self-belief are among analogies that can be drawn from this text. It has an almost mythical quality to it and is well enhanced by Turvey's exquisite illustrations which are both detailed and haunting.
Martin is the singular central character. Without a mother, tormented by a overbearing father and two brothers, Martin looks to the forest for solace and the small creatures he befriends become part of his salvation and strength. The ideas of both sacrifice and forgiveness are predominant in Martin's eventual triumph.
An intriguing and multi-layered book, this is recommended for older children for whom it could be a provocation for many philosophical conversations.