Friday, March 27, 2009

How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

Australian author and illustrator Bob Graham has created a gentle, yet powerful, homage to compassion.

A pigeon hits the glass of a skyscraper and falls to the ground, where crowds of people pass without noticing, until a small child convinces his mother to help. They take the bird home to nurse it while its injuries heal, then release it when it can fly again.

The story is told in few words and, indeed, is easily understood without reading any of them. The watercolour illustrations are presented in comic-style panels; somber colours for the city streets and city folks, bright red jacket and blue trousers for the child, who is also bathed in yellow light.

The artwork rewards careful observation. The people in the crowds all look like individuals: two boys admire a parked motorcycle, a man blows his nose, an elderly pair assist each other, a couple of gay men carry an art portfolio, someone looks at his watch, and several women are wearing jilbabs and scarves. In the child's home, animal imagery can be found everywhere - pictures, stuffed toys, the calendar on the wall.

A deeper layer is added when the reader notices that the newspaper used to line the pigeon's box has a picture of an army tank on the front page. In a cosy, nighttime scene, as the family tends to the bird, they are illuminated by the light of the television showing three fighter jets flying above broken walls and buildings. Three swallows form a wall decoration above the tv. Sitting on the tv is a toy boat, slightly askew, containing two human figures and a mouse.

The message of hope is a balm for readers of all ages.

No comments: