Though I consider myself a geek when it comes to English literature or anything poetry, there will always inevitably come a time when I need some kind of a break. Watching my mother teach kids in kindergarten and seeing the adorable picture books she would bring back home was fascinating. I was surprised when I learned how much planning and intricacy was involved in creating the perfect picture book, and soon found myself taking interest in the field of children’s literature.
Having been exposed to some great picture books as a child, I was keen to find out more about different, new authors and illustrators. One of my favourites is Oliver Jeffers, an incredibly creative individual who not only writes the storyline for his picture books, but also creates the artwork. The book that stands out most to me, out of all his works, is a moving story called The Heart and the Bottle. While it definitely looks like an ordinary children’s story at first glance, one may discover that it talks about certain emotions that everyone experiences, which makes it relatable for all ages.
The protagonist is a young girl who has a wild imagination and is always curious to learn more about the world around her. When she unfortunately goes through a terrible loss, the girl finds it easier to lock her heart away in a safe place so it doesn’t get hurt anymore, but this results in her losing her thirst for knowledge. She misses her old self but can’t get her heart out of the safe place, until one day, a small creative girl much like herself, reminds her how. The protagonist accepts her grief and returns to doing what she was most comfortable with – appreciating the beauty around her and filling her head with wonder.
Having experienced such a situation myself, this story spoke to me on a personal level. It discusses a serious issue and moral that can be applicable to so many people, and this is an example of what children’s books can achieve. They have the power to depict problems that otherwise may not be brought up in a light-hearted and extremely readable manner. The beauty of these books, and especially Oliver Jeffers’ works, lies in their universality.
The next time Anglo-Saxon Literature assignments get too taxing, picking up a kids’ book might not be such a bad idea!
Illustrations from The Heart and the Bottle, by Oliver Jeffers (Walker Books). Photograph: Walker Books.
Saakshi hopes to be an English major at UBC. She loves anything and everything related to poetry, children’s picture books and theatre. If she isn’t nibbling on dark chocolate or listening to Lorde, she’s randomly breaking into song and dance while waiting in line to grab food. Being sarcastic, melodramatic and hilariously theatrical is her forte.