Fiona Burrows, Violet & Nothing, Freemantle Press, May 2019, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hdk), ISBN 9781925591552
Violet is a girl with big ideas and a wonderful imagination. One day she asks “what is nothing?” It turns out the answer is not a simple one. In every “nothing” Violet finds something, whether it be a blank page on which she sees imaginary traces, or the air outside in which she notices smells and sounds. In an attempt to answer her question, Violet uncovers more abstract questions such as, “what is the opposite of nothing?” and finally, the philosophical quandary: “how do I know that anything is real?”
The highlight of this book is the incredible illustrations. The pages are bursting with colour, life and imagination and perfectly capture the inquisitive and thoughtful young Violet. In keeping with the philosophical nature of her quest, the illustrations cleverly incorporate references to philosophy and science, including items such as “Schrodinger cat biscuits”, names of philosophers on books and diagrams from science text books.
Although the central idea is a tricky one to distil into 32 pages, the text does well to make it somewhat relevant and understandable for children, and I imagine the book could spark thinking and discussions around some big questions.
This book would be appropriate for children 4 years and older. It could be used in primary school classes to introduce philosophical thinking and stimulate discussion.
Reviewed by Rebecca Blakeney