A young boy and his family move house. When they get there, he notices that not everything is unpacked and there is, when you look closely, tiny cracks in some things maybe they have been there for a while. He wants to mend them but somethings such as his parent’s unhappy relationship you can’t mend.
This is an emotional book that reflects the difficulties and confusion children feel when significant changes occur in their family. The text is gentle and poetic yet powerful in its sensitive metaphoric descriptions of the boy’s feelings. Illustrator Bethany Macdonald’s creative use of collage perfectly captures the text’s powerful emotions. Images of the boy playing with the wrapping paper scrunching it to make flowers accompanies the words ‘Should boys like flowers? I do. Should boys cry? I feel like crying’.
Slowly the boy moves through the changes and this is reflected in the bits and pieces he creates from paper. We learn that tissues are good for tears and spills but of little use for repairs. He makes a paper boat, but it just doesn’t float very well. And a bird that flies away when the string holding it breaks. Then, at last, we see a smiling boy who has fitted the pieces of his changed life together creating a new and happier home.
‘Paperboy’ was inspired by the author’s personal experience of family change and is told in simple and profound language. The accompanying artwork adds depth and feeling to the story. The addition of the text typed painstakingly over and over, throughout the artwork increases its emotional impact. Sometimes it is used to wrap the boy or merely integrated or melted into the pages, and always the boy is carefully positioned as the central actor in the story surrounded by his varying emotions.
This is a beautiful story that uses metaphor to relate a situation that children may identify with. A useful book for any child or adult dealing with profound challenges and changes in their life.