On Saturday I went to Richmond Library for the launch of a rather amazing new picture book, Gracie and Josh. It was a launch that had everything — lots of people, a fabulous book, a chocolate cake and even Hazel Edwards. What more could you want?
Gracie and Josh is written by Susanne Gervay and illustrated by Serena Geddes. The book was ably launched by Hazel Edwards, no stranger to picture books herself, having written the classic There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. She paid tribute not only to the author and illustrator, but also to the publisher, Ford Street Publishing, for taking a risk on such book. Also speaking at the launch was a representative of Variety: The Children’s Charity, which has endorsed this book.
Gracie and Josh is about a little girl and her older brother. Josh has cancer and sometimes has to go to hospital and sometimes has bad weeks when he can’t get out of bed. Despite this, the book is not at all a downer. It is joyful and hopeful and fun and utterly delightful. It focusses on the relationship between Josh and Gracie rather than on Josh’s illness — in fact, the word ‘cancer’ is never actually used in the text.
The illustrations are beautiful. They complement the text and ‘say’ things that are not said with the words. Josh’s lack of hair makes his illness obvious without the need for using the word ‘cancer’. Gracie’s expression when Josh’s beanie falls off, says so much about her feelings for her brother without the need to specify them with words. This book is a perfect combination of words and pictures, each working with the other rather than just mirroring.
This book works on a couple of different levels, very aptly demonstrated by my daughters. While at the launch, my elder daughter read the book to her younger sister. Lexi is four years old, and although she understood that Josh was sick, she didn’t really understand the gravity of that situation. She just enjoyed the fun aspects of the story and the relationship between the siblings. Nykita is almost ten, and she did understand the implications of Josh’s illness. But still, the joy in the story is what she took away from it.
Gracie and Josh is a really lovely book. I heard much talk at the launch about how it would make a good gift for kids who have ill family members. And yes, that is true. But I think it has much wider appeal. As I wrote earlier, it is the love shared by siblings that is the focus of the story. And love is universal.
Catch ya later, George
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