Book Review: small things

Author: Mel Tregonning
ISBN: 978-1-74237-979-1
RRP: $29.99

Recently we did a callout for children’s books to offer as book club titles, I was offered small things but thought perhaps it would be a little dark. I still think perhaps it’s a little dark but I also think it is a beautifully told story that could be just the thing some people need some times.

small things is a picture book told completely with images, there are no words, and I think that’s perfect because sometimes there are no words. The illustrations are all in black, white and shades of grey which made them even more powerful.

The audience for small things, according to Allen & Unwin is the 10-14yr old age bracket but I think it will speak to people of all ages who have suffered sadness, anxiety and loneliness.

Mel Tregonning began illustrating a book about loneliness and hopelessness in 2008, before being able to finish the book she took her own life in 2014. Rather than allow the book to remain unfinished Mel’s family brought illustrator Shaun Tan on board to help compile the work, put all the pieces together and complete the final three illustrations.

small things tell the story of young boy who, right from the beginning of the book, is looking a little sad. He’s looking a little isolated from the other children at school. As he becomes more isolated we see his grades suffer and ‘monsters’ start to surround him.

Mel has managed to visually capture these ‘monsters’ of loneliness, hopeliness and despair slowly eating at the boy. No-one else can see the dark cloud surrounding him but as the book progresses they start to take pieces out of him, wearing him down until there’s almost more of him missing than there is left.

small things

One day he is reached out to and that one conversation starts a change, a slow change but a change all the same. A conversation that allows him to see that he’s not alone, other people face these same ‘monsters’ of sadness, anxiety and loneliness. We all have our cracks and a small gesture of kindness can make a great impact.

This book is beautifully drawn, hauntingly touching and profound. I think it demonstrates the things that many of us don’t see and often if you are in that dark cloud it stops you seeing the clouds of those around you.

small things will definitely be a book that I keep handy on my shelf because there are going to be times in the growing of my children that I think they are going to need to see this, and discuss it. I think everyone will have their very own and very personal interpretation of the story but I don’t think anyone that opens it will fail to be touched by it.

small things is the very personal story of Mel Tregonning, and her family.

small things is available now through Allen & Unwin, Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and were all good books are sold.

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