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.
Last week, I shared how Colin Thompson rallied together 16 renowned illustrators (including himself) to raise funds for children in Cambodia in The Bicycle (2011) together with Save the Children. Here in Dust, fourteen artists came together to provide much needed-assistance to the people from Niger, Africa.
In the Foreword written by Margaret Douglas, then CEO of Save the Children in Australia:
Dust was inspired by the humanitarian disaster that occurred in Niger, Africa, in 2005, where a lethal combination of drought and locust infestation triggered severe food shortages, affecting more than 3.6 million people. Officially the poorest country in the world, 63 percent of Niger’s population live on less than $1 a day and the under-five mortality rate is more than one in three.
This picturebook is haunting and may not be to the liking of people who are not used to complex themes in picturebooks. Colin Thompson shared some of the initial struggles he had while putting together this project:
A couple of illustrators I approached said the whole project was so depressing that no one would buy the book. I do realise that this is a confrontational book and it might well upset some people, but hundreds of thousands of deaths from starvation or abuse or curable disease is what we should really be upset about.
DUST is a simple story with 14 double-page illustrations, each one by a different illustrator, including myself. All our royalties are going to Save the Children.
Eleven out of the fourteen illustrators are from Australia: Gaye Chapman, Kim Gamble, Judy Horacek, Terry Denton, Emma Quay, Bruce Whatley, Dee Texidor, Anna Pignataro, David Legge, Tohby Riddle, and Colin Thompson. Two artists come from the UK: Chris Mould and Richard Yot, Tom Byrne is from Ireland but moved to Paris in 2003.
Unlike The Bicycle that does not have an overarching storyline, this one has Colin Thompson’s trademark powerful voice, told in such achingly-simple words:
This is the first page of the book with the words: “I died last night.”
The images portray the trademark style of the artists and provide glimpses of unapologetic truths:
Each line is illustrated by extremely talented artists who captured the spirit of what this book tries to do: raise consciousness and empower people to participate and take action.
This picturebook reminds us to not shut our ears and simply move on. It is a call for compassion and shared humanity. It is an invitation for people to care.
Dust. A Book Project by Colin Thompson for Save the Children. Published by ABC Books for the Austrlian Broadcasting Corposation, 2007. Book borrowed through inter-library loan. Book photos taken by me.