Next to Mirror, this is possibly my favourite of Jeannie Baker’s incredibly beautiful picture books. Not only is the imagery stunning, but the power of its wordless form is something Jeannie does with consummate style.
Belonging is deceptive in its simplicity. It features repeat double page spreads of a square window, showing an outdoor scene that truly affects the heart.
In the first double page spread, we see a young couple in the backyard with a new baby. There are lacy knickers on the line and a neighbour is planting in his garden next door. Behind the fence line of the house, we see an inner city scene, complete with a Smash Repair and a Pizza Hut.
As time goes by, the grass grows and so does the child and so does the city skyline behind the house. The weather changes, the toys in the window change. The hand-drawn height chart on the wall next to the window gets higher and higher as our young baby turns into a fine girl and then young woman, who one day has a child of her own.
So much changes over time – and our emotions change, too. We grow and feel and move with each and every page.
I love the cyclical nature of this book. I love the iconic detail which is truly astonishing in its variety, from a Picnic chocolate bar wrapper on the windowsill to the updated buses on the street. This 2008 version of the book – originally published in 2004 – has even been updated with some sky writing . . . the word SORRY appears in the sky on one page.
I most especially love the fact that as the story goes along, the streetscapes become more and more ‘green’.
This is a book of change, growth and hope. It is a wordless book but it speaks volumes about life and all its idiosyncratic beauty. It is a celebration of Australian life, of all life – and it can be viewed and reviewed over and over – and each time the eyes are filled with more.
If you haven’t Jeannie-Bakered your life yet, start with this book. You won’t regret it.
Belonging is published by Walker Books.