Readers will have an immediate reaction to both this story and its illustrations. Perhaps they are puzzled, perhaps mystified. While it does not specifically state the loss of a loved one, this book is the outcome of one family’s personal experience. The book’s creators are the mother and her two adult children working through the loss of a son and brother. The opening line states, ‘I miss my brother I’m so lost without him.’ Careful viewing reveals extra spacing between these words. Emotions are heightened and attention is focussed. At the base of the pages is a tiny donkey making its way across this and subsequent pages.
Opposite on the soft cream coloured paper are framed illustrations in softly shaded graphite pencil. A forlorn creature sits alone at a table, watched over by a range of birds.
The creature sets out to look for the lost brother, wandering through surreal landscapes, flying through space, approaching buildings surrounded by flooding waters, climbing up a winding endless staircase, and searching the animals alongside the shoreline. Along the journey, familiar nursery rhymes appear including the owl and the pussy-cat that went to sea and hickory dickory dock, the mouse that ran up the clock. Exhausted, the creature falls asleep. Upon waking, the donkey has disappeared, the darkness receded and the lost brother appears in multiple images alongside his brother in a series of joyful moments together. The sombre graphite has changed on these final three pages to a bright yellow and orange background while the text offers, ‘he is surrounded by light in a land so pure, so beautiful and so safe. He’s not lost at all. He is everywhere. And he will always be with me.’
The endpapers guide the reader’s emotional response from beginning to end. Initial endpapers are light yellow with a bird flying in the bottom right corner, perhaps searching. The back endpapers are a brilliant yellow with orange paint splotches giving warmth and serenity. Interpretations are open for readers at different stages of understanding.
Dee Huxley explains, ‘This book came about because of the loss of a loved one in tragic circumstances, and our world changed forever. It is both a tribute and a release. A tribute to a beautiful, empathetic soul, who touched so many lives, young and old, and who will be loved and missed forever. A release, albeit sorrowful, to be able to make this book for him, and us, and others like us, and a hope that he is somewhere beautiful and safe now. The main character, a metaphorical gentle creature, represents the emotional journey of loss, disbelief, grief, but also a journey of hope.’ (Source: Paperzz Teacher Notes)