The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish
Sang Miao
Flying Eye Books

‘A boy and his grandpa sat drawing one afternoon.’ So begins Sang Miao’s first book as both author and illustrator in which at the start we see the two together as they share a conversation about a special kind of jellyfish and immortality.

Not long after, the boy learns that his beloved grandfather has died and that night he feels lost.

In a dream his grandfather returns and takes him along on his very last journey, beneath the ocean to a yellow door.

Beyond the door is his destination, The Life Transfer City.

This dream world is a place where those who have died choose a spirit creature to become that will live on in memory. There, after meeting some of the other choosers, boy and old man must part company.

Miao’s dream world is alive with spirit animals and strange-looking fungi illustrated in an arresting colour palette giving a surreal feel to the whole place, a place wherein the end of life offers a new beginning as something or someone altogether different.

Whether or not reincarnation fits into your worldview, with its themes of death and rebirth, this is a powerful, uplifting story, told with the utmost sensitivity that should be of great help to grieving children and their families.

Out, Out, Away From Here

Out, Out, Away From Here
Rachel Woodworth and Sang Miao
Flying Eye Books

An exploration of emotions comes first hand from the red haired girl narrator of this picture book.

Sometimes she feels mad, sometimes she’s sad; on some days, ‘smiling-ear-to-ear GLAD’; on others ‘MAD SAD SMILING-EAR-TO-EAR GLAD.’ There are good and bad days, quiet ones and noisy ones. But on those ‘MAD SAD NOISY days’ she seeks solace in a place far off in the wild of her imagination.

That’s a place to watch the swishing, swooshing, rustling roaring trees with their whispery leaves, waving branches and grumbling trunks until both watched and watcher break into smiles and everything begins to change.

Finally it’s time to return, calm once more, to the everyday world of domestic reality.

Sang Miao’s superb illustrations show what is not said: there’s a baby sibling in the home that clearly puts the parents under strain at times. Here she uses dark silhouettes and dull hues …

in stark contrast to her richly coloured scenes of the narrator’s imaginary world, which are lush and fantastical with surreal images.

A fabulous book to start a primary classroom discussion on negative emotions – how they can affect us, and how we might respond to them.