Zana Fraillon and Phil Lesnie – The Curiosities

Lothian Children’s Books/Hachette, Australia, 2021

This wonderfully gentle book reminds us to see ‘wonders and possibles’. Inspired by the author’s personal life, her experience of having a child with Tourette Syndrome, the book pays quiet homage to diversity of all kinds, to divergent thinking and the many ways people can see the world. It is about knowing and accepting that we are not all the same and that these differences make us better as a society.

Zana Fraillon talks to Barbie about The Curiosities

Such a weighty theme, but told in visual metaphor and steeped in the magic of the natural world. Miro is the child of the story, who gradually feels his difference, but also gradually becomes more attuned to the wonders around him. He sees things previously unnoticed.

Sometimes the Curiosities drag Miro down into a mire of confusion and noise, mounting one night to a cacophony he cannot bear. But there is a way up, with the help of the wise and guiding hand of the Elder. Only then can Miro see that he is not alone in his divergence. Others see things differently too.

And this is where those ‘wonders and possibles’ come in. For all of us there is a chance to see in our own way and with it an opportunity to allow this of others; the book is an invocation to embrace and celebrate our differences.

The wonder of this story is perfectly captured by Phil Lesnie’s illustrations, evoking a sense of the spiritual amongst us. The Curiosities are depicted as spirit figures, but as real as the human and natural landscapes they inhabit. The artist’s sweeping rice paddies and night skies are images that draw us in for a closer look.

Parents, teachers and children will find all magic and enlightenment here. I hope that Zana’s original purpose of informing us a little more about Tourette Syndrome will be met, but I do believe that the book’s clear lessons about the vital place of the creative and divergent thinker in our world will be well and truly taken on board.

Thank you to Hachette/Lothian Children’s Books for my review copy and Zana for speaking with me so generously and honestly about the book and its importance.