Children’s literature is often expected to be all sweetness and light, unicorns and fairies, magic and adventure. While the joy of losing yourself in a magical world should not be denied, there is also a place in every child’s reading experience for books that reflect their own day-to-day lives. Books that hold up a mirror to our society and show children that there are others just like them. Books that explore the diversity of our communities and the wide range of emotions that exist within us all.
In this brand-new hardcover picture book from acclaimed Australian author and illustrator Anna Walker, we meet Jack and his dad. Anna drew inspiration for this story from her brother’s experience as a newly separated father, transitioning to a new life and a new way of parenting. Jack and his dad are together but not really connecting. Jack longs for the lively, joking Dad he knew before. Dad is distracted and sad. They are two lonely people co-existing as a family unit, but not fulfilling the emotional connection that Jack longs for and Dad needs.
Jack feels loneliness, exclusion, loss, and sadness. He feels the sadness of his Dad. He feels excluded by a distracted parent. It is possible to be lonely within a family.
A distracting presence enters their world – Jimmy the parrot. Jimmy is a lively character, a cantankerous and precocious pet, but he and Jack do not get along and eventually, Jack leaves a window open and Jimmy escapes.
Feeling guilty Jack embarks on a rescue mission. Will he succeed and bring Jimmy home? Ultimately Dad and Jack rescue each other, reforging their connection and starting a new chapter of their lives.
There are several themes to explore in this story and this beautifully illustrated book can be used as a conversation starter. Diversity takes many shapes and forms. A family of two is still a family, even though the two may not live together full time. The small rituals of family life, like Jack’s taco night, bring us closer together. Children have a rich emotional world, and often this is not considered in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
For some of us, living in a pandemic has given us a taste of simpler or slower pace of life, some relief from the never-ending lists and schedules, and an opportunity to take stock of what is ultimately important. The impetus to reset expectations and fully notice those around us, no matter how small or what age, can often come from the most unlikely circumstances. Including pandemics, new family circumstances and precocious pets!
Anna Walker’s delicate artwork was created using pencil, gouache and mono-printing. There is fine detail in every drawing, right down to the power cords and chargers of everyday life. Jimmy is gloriously portrayed as a handsome and cheeky bird, with personality plus!
This book is a welcome addition to any library at home or collection and recommended for children 6+
Anna Walker’s words on the dedication page are beautiful:
For the child that feels lost,
may you feel found
and know you are loved.