Allen & Unwin
Thought-provoking, enormously powerful and definitely not for little ones, this picture book begins with a girl, Carolina, watching her mother put on a pair of diamond earrings in preparation for an evening out. She asks how much they cost receiving the response, “I don’t know. You’d have to ask Uncle Winston. He bought them for me. … because he loves me very much.” Carolina is an inquisitive child, so the questions continue: where did the earrings come from? What is mined? Where are diamonds mined?
After receiving a cavalier reply to her question about their maid Amina’s lack of diamonds despite like the gemstones, coming from Africa, Carolina is left in the care of the maid, and her mama departs.
Then comes a series of wordless spreads beginning with Amina seeing Carolina into bed.
There follows a nightmarish account documenting the journey of these conflict diamonds from their source to the giving of the earrings. Greder shows how the miners extract the gems from the ground while being brutalised and perhaps worse by overseers.
They are then passed through a corrupt chain of middlemen until they reach an up-market jeweller’s shop to await purchasers.
The book ends with Amina comforting a tearful Carolina who has woken from her horrendous dream.
Hugely unsettling, made particularly so by the sombre, haunting charcoal images in the wordless scenes, this important book raises highly pertinent issues of social injustice, exploitation and human rights, and of human consumption and greed. The clever juxtaposition of concerns about Amina’s role as a domestic servant in a wealthy home with those of the exploitation of the mine workers, as well as Carolina’s mother’s attitude towards her daughter’s probing about the diamonds, ensure that this book truly packs a powerful punch, leaving the reader with a determination to endeavour to ensure they have no part in any oppression of other human beings.
A book to discuss – with the aid of the three afterwords that talk of conflict diamonds and The Democratic Republic of Congo – with upper primary children and beyond.