Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just booklove miscellany in general.
The book that I am sharing today is still in keeping with our reading theme. I have always been a huge fan of Colin Thompson’s artwork and his books. It is only fairly recently that I discovered that he has teamed up with Save the Children foundation a couple of times (that I know of) to use the artwork of renowned illustrators (including himself) to raise funds for children in Cambodia (The Bicycle) and in Niger (Dust). I am featuring Dust next week.
In the Foreword of the book, Colin Thompson shared that he traveled to Cambodia with Save the Children in 2008. It was this trip that inspired him to do something concrete, using the best way he knows how, to provide much-needed help to disadvantaged children that can prove to be life-changing for most of them. He mentioned how struck he was by how Save the Children manages to provide assistance with seemingly-simple solutions that are often taken for granted by privileged people from developed countries. But why bicycles? As Colin Thompson noted:
… there are villages with no schools that are even more remote. The nearest school, like the one we visited, is too far to walk to every day.
So Save the Children gave them $50 bicyles and that bicycle is the difference between a child spending their life unable to read or write and working hard just to survive, or becoming anything they want from a teacher to a doctor to the president of their country.
Sixteen internationally-renowned illustrators came together to contribute breathtaking art on how a bicycle can fit into people’s ordinary lives in a variety of ways. 10 out of the 16 came from Australia (David Legge, David Miller, Michelle Pike, Freya Blackwood, David ‘Dub’ Leffer, Sarah Davis (whose artwork reminded me so much of Yuyi Morales), Gabrielle Wang (whom we have invited here in Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content), Jack Story, Shaun Tan (!!!) and Colin Thompson; one artist from New Zealand (Ruth Paul); three artists came from England – Tony Ross, Jan Bowman, and Quentin Blake whose art work can be seen in the book cover; Kim Chatel from the USA, and an anonymous artist.
Rather than have an overarching storyline, the pages are filled with various quotes either from famous people or authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells, or as shared by children from Cambodia about what a bicycle means to them.
While I loved the above image from Shaun Tan, surreal, complex and multi-layered as always, I was especially taken by Colin Thompson’s art work as seen below. Amazingly intricate, this full page spread also includes images of children from Cambodia riding their bicycles or playing in their school ground.
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)
Royalties from the sale of this book are donated to Save the Children to purchase more bicycles for children in Cambodia. To end this post, I have here Katie Melua’s 9 Million Bicycles. Let us change the world one bicycle at a time.
The Bicycle. A Book project by Colin Thompson for Save the Children. Published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2011. Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.