Harvey has boxes, bins and buckets full of stuff but as soon as something new comes along, he covets it. ‘The All New Must Have ORANGE 430’ is the latest and the greatest. Harvey isn't sure what it does but knows he simply must have it! After scrimping and saving to pay for one he soon experiences buyer remorse with the realisation that he has purchased a totally useless object. His ensuing attempts to return the item lead to an epiphany in creative thinking and a newfound realisation of the true value of an object. This is a multi-layered book which pokes fun at our modern obsession with stuff whilst revealing the advertising tricks companies employ to entice buyers. Inflated sales language and bombarding the buyer with billboard images, catalogues and junk mail urges them to hurry and seeks to engender FOMO – fear of missing out.
The muted sepia palette of mainly browns, grey and orange with pops of white adds a slightly futuristic quality and each spread is filled with detail and popular culture references. Symbols and objects are cleverly hidden within the illustrations to reward the careful reader. The endpapers feature THIS WAY UP labels tessellated in numerous directions and the pages have a strong textural quality displaying aspects of packaging such as crumpled brown paper, corrugated cardboard, price tags, sticky tape and labels. The numerous boxes feature labels in several different languages reflecting the global nature of retail and consumer culture. The Useless Object International company occupies an industrial, almost dystopian, landscape of intimidating buildings surrounded by a massive pile of waste with the President unreachable in a high office subtly decorated with wallpaper patterned with dollar signs.
The book is designed to be a journey of discovery for both Harvey and the reader; the change of colour to soft, woolly, white speech bubbles indicates that Harvey begins to question and think for himself until he literally sees the light. LouLou, a white cat features in many spreads and her facial expressions accurately interpret the action throughout, adding another dimension to the text. Cat lovers will find it entirely fitting that she has the last word.
It was shortlisted and awarded as an Honour Book in the Picture Book category of the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Children's Book of the Year Award in 2019 and was the winner of The Wilderness Society's 2019 Environment Award for Children's Literature, Picture Books.