Friday, April 13, 2018

Toby by Margaret Wild illustrated by Noela Young

Ah yes, the dogs and other animals ... Noela's are so realistic, they seem to crawl, fly or scurry off the pages. Their eyes sparkle with so much life that the reader practically expects them to blink. Karen Jameyson Magpies Magazine

In an interview in Magpies Magazine Karen Jameyson asked Noela an important question which relates to books like Toby:

"Time after time Noela's talents have been called on to capture life's more piercing moments, often a sick or dying pet or grandparent. How is that she has repeatedly been able to rise to the occasion with exactly the right touch?
I can feel them ... I can just feel them all.
But how can she bear to keep travelling around these emotional carousels?
I have to keep reminding myself that it's not real."
Mapgies volume 31, issue No 4, September 2016.

I wonder if this is really true. The book Toby feels so real and this is due to the perfect combination of text (Margaret Wild) and illustration (Noela Young) but surely also both Noela and Margaret have experienced the death of a loved pet. The sadness as we watch Toby grow old is very powerful as is the emotional reaction of Sara.  Mum explains this to her brothers. "Everything is changing for Sara. Next year she starts high school, ... she's growing up, and she's not sure that she likes it. ... Sara doesn't want anything else to change. She doesn't want Toby to get old and die."

I have been reading books illustrated by Noela Young this week. I am sure this one will be in all Australian school libraries as it was short listed by our CBCA in 1994. Sadly this is another title which is now out of print. When you do pick up this book take some time to look at the first illustration of a tennis ball under some flowers and then notice how this image is repeated on the final page.

Having said that, when the subject arises, Wild - Australia's best picture book author, bar none - handles death with a frank compassion that goes beyond mere sensitivity. Judith Ridge The Age

Wild describes the realistic events with touching simplicity. Young's beautifully observed watercolors are less impressionistic than Shirley Hughes's, and include more literal details, but they are in the same richly empathetic spirit.   Kirkus

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