Ergo

Ergo
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

For me there’s nothing worse than feeling trapped between the walls of my home however safe and secure it might be. And I suspect most of us have experienced some claustrophobic feelings during the last sixteen or so months, though I’m lucky to be living at present in the countryside surrounded by green spaces that I’ve taken advantage of no matter the weather. Hurrah for the big wide world waiting outside your immediate cosy environs, both physical and mental.

So let’s now meet the aptly named Ergo, a cute baby chick that’s just woken up to her own physicality. She decides to explore the world: first she finds her toes, ‘wiggle, wiggle ‘ now that’s a GREAT START and it’s followed by wings, beak and legs. Now that’s a small world: AM I THE WORLD though?

Ergo concludes that she is. Until she notices the wall surrounding her – a roly poly world then.

Suddenly into this hitherto perfect world intrudes a sound – BUMP and it’s closely followed by a realisation. Time to embark on a journey of discovery perhaps …but it’s going to take some pluck to reach out. Can Ergo make that vital truth searching move? …

What Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz have so cleverly created here is a philosophical demonstration of freeing oneself, of going beyond the information given and of reaching out to others. Seemingly simple perhaps, but this is a highly thought-provoking and a smashing starting point for a philosophy for children discussion in the primary classroom.

Adelaide’s Secret World

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Adelaide’s Secret World
Elise Hurst
Murdoch Books
Adelaide’s life has become a solitary one: her once busy world of wonders now shrunk to a behind the red-curtain, glass-jar-filled existence. From the window she observes the sunrise, the ships entering the port and the loners in the city below. In the evenings, she uses her art to re-create what she’s seen by day; but there always seems to be something lacking.

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Then one day, feeling restless Adelaide heads out, despite the gathering clouds into the hustling, bustling city. As the storm gathers apace, she notices by chance a fox dropping his book as he dashes through the crowds. Without a moment’s thought, Adelaide retrieves the book – a sketch book – and follows its owner back to his home; and through the window the sight that meets her eyes is one of recognition. ‘And she knew them all – the dancers, the lost ones, the midnight cat and herself, Adelaide.

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Then the door is opened and ‘though her heart called out she could make no sound.’ – Such a beautiful portrayal of coming face to face with your true soul mate.
Having handed over the book and dashed home, Adelaide’s world spins in turmoil

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and a change happens: the seemingly impossible becomes the possible. It’s not only her world that changes though: things in the city will never again be the same: there’s laughter and music … ‘And those who had once been lonely and silent … found their voices.’
To read this is to step onto a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s just SO breathtakingly moving and ultimately, uplifting. I particularly love the way that red curtain behind which Adelaide has retreated, and its unravelling, by and by becomes the means through which she and other lonely residents of the locality reach out and become linked to one another.

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Books such as this are so important at the present when there’s so much talk of building walls, with countries breaking away from one another, looking inwards rather than outwards: it’s a timely and potent reminder that open-heartedness and the courage to reach out, to speak out against xenophobia, racism and the like can, little by little, bring change for the better.
There’s a near sublime quality about Elise Hurst’s oil-paintings and the way in which these, interwoven with her equally poetic words, create a synergy that moved this particular reviewer to tears and at the same time, fuelled a determination to continue working as a bridge builder in the spirit of Adelaide. What a gamut of emotions her colour palette arouses too: the contrasting greys and deep greeny-blues and browns of the storm both external and within the main character; and the contrasting orange and especially, red that is ever present representing a spark of spirit, warmth and the power of the imagination.