Alison McLennan (text) and Melissa Johns (illustrator), Growing Pains, EK Books, June 2021, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925820522
Growing pains is a sensitive, thoughtful picture book story about Finn who projects his worries and concerns onto a newly planted tree in the backyard. He imagines that the tree gets cold or hungry or lonely and he sets about caring for it. In the end, it’s Finn’s association with the tree that helps him overcome his fear of the dark. The story gives rise to interesting themes to discuss with children – care for plants, gardens and animals and facing fears, specifically fear of the dark.
Whilst the story is sweet and whimsical, it is the unique, collage style illustrations that are particularly impressive. The images are created from cut outs of recycled paper or other recycled materials. Just to name a few – chequered paper is used for Finn’s pyjamas and paper of various shades of brown or green are cut into leaf like shapes to form bushes or decorate trees. This makes for a pleasant and interesting array of shapes, patterns, lines, and textures. The images are somehow soothing, but also lively and energetic. They add meaning to the story by depicting the action and events and creating detailed backdrops of home and backyard garden.
I recommend this beautifully illustrated book for children aged 5-7 years old and adults who read to them. The story will be specifically relevant to kids who have a fear of the dark.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz