Small Things by Mel Tregonning
Published by Allen & Unwin
I don’t normally like sad books. I don’t normally like black and white illustrations. I don’t normally like picture books that have no words at all. I almost decided not to review this book, but once I ‘read’ it I changed my mind as this book deserves so much attention. It is beyond wonderful – it is beyond splendid, beyond amazing and yes, beyond any words I can attribute to it.
Mel Tregonning took on an awkward topic of anxiety and depression and how it feels. It is a wordless tale, but the incredible black and white (and shades of grey) illustrations don’t need words. She started this book over nine years ago and it was published in 2014, sadly after she had taken her own life after struggling with anxiety and depression. The final three illustrations were done by author/illustrator Shaun Tan and Tregonning’s family then took it through the publication process.
It is the story of an ordinary boy struggling emotionally in an ordinary world, built around single and multiple frame monochromatic illustrations. I found myself quietly focusing on every frame so I didn’t miss any nuance in the story. It needs no words. The illustrations are so perfect that the boy’s aloneness and worry monsters are easily understood by the reader.
We are taken on a journey of his day-to-day struggles with keeping his fears at bay, how they can become bigger and smaller depending on what happens in his world. I particularly liked the cracking of the body analogy. I suspected that this story may not have a happy ending, but Mel has taken us one step further and shown how we all have our worry monsters, that we are not alone and that often help is closer than we think. I only wish that her personal journey had been the same and had a happier ending.
Small Things is poignant, it is heartfelt, and a rollercoaster emotionally. It will stay with you long after you finish the last page. I like to think that you will come to the same conclusion that I did, that there is always hope no matter how desperate our world may feel at times and the importance of reaching out to others.
It is an extraordinary story which I would highly recommend to readers 10 years and old. It is also an excellent book for adults to read with younger children suffering from anxiety, bullying or night terrors. I can honestly say that after reading Small Things, I actually now love poignant books, black and white illustrations and stories with no words – thank you Mel Tregonning.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Mel Tregonning
Illustrator: Shaun Tan
Title: Small Things
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: August 2016