Friday, April 22, 2011

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

On so many levels I simply do not feel qualified to talk about this breathtaking book Mirror by Jeannie Baker. Firstly, every time I dip into the pages of this textless book I find new wonders to explore so whatever I say now will change as I discover more little details over the next weeks and months. Secondly, I am in awe of Jeannie Baker’s talent, vision and passion. I listened to Jeannie Baker at a recent IBBY conference where she explained her trip to Morocco, meeting the people, exploring the landscape and traditions all done as a lone woman traveler in a very foreign environment. It was clear Jeannie Baker had already started on her vision for this book and so her experiences and the photographic images she captured were not just incidental but all part of a carefully planned experience which would be shared with her readers through this wondrous book.

One thing that fascinated me when Jeannie Baker spoke was when she explained she had a totally different book construction in her mind and the design we see now was the result of collaboration with her publisher and the book designer. To the reader this innovative book design, where the two sides of the narrative are viewed simultaneously seems so perfect and natural. I would love to know what Jeannie Baker first envisaged.

This book took over five years to produce and of that two years were spent making all the amazing collage pictures. Every detail has been so carefully thought of from the fun number plates for the Sydney scenes and the stork on its nest on the top of the building in Morocco.

Nothing in Window is there by chance. The weaving patterns are authentic, the family scenes are based on a real family that Jeannie Baker stayed with and the Sydney street scenes are in Balmain (look for all the Tigers colours). Take a look at the page where the Moroccan family are sitting down for breakfast. You will see a recessed shelf with their prized personal possessions – a wedding shawl and some special pots. Later when the family have been to market to sell their carpet they sit down for dinner – new technology now has pride of place in their home and the wedding shawl has been hung on a window frame. When you look at the Sydney family you will notice their table is a door complete with handle and on each page the fireplace moves closer to completion.

I am lucky enough to have two sets of the large pictures with teaching notes to share with my students and I plan to purchase several copies of Mirror for our school library so all the children can handle and delve into this book themselves.

There is so much to explore in this book. I make a prediction that it will win many awards in the future including Picture Book of the Year for the CBCA awards and like all Jeannie Baker books Mirror is destined to become a classic.

Here are some quotes from Jeannie Baker (they may not be exact I tried to write these down as she was speaking)

"There is a spectrum of interpretations for this book"

"Curiosity about cultural difference"

"Richness of cultures"

"Our global world"

"We are the mirror of each other".

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