Mike Lucas (Text), and Jennifer Harrison (illustrator), Vanishing, Midnight Sun Publishing, November 2018, 32 pp., RRP $29.99 (hbk), ISBN
Vanishing by Mike Lucas and Jennifer Harrison is a beautiful but devastating story about a future that may one day be ours.
The cover of the second picture book from the duo immediately sets the tone for this tale – the haunting title, Vanishing, sits beneath a crane flying behind two origami cranes. There is no illusion this will be anything other than a sombre tale of what is, and what could happen to our world.
In the story we learn of the magnificent animals which once roamed the land. From giant land animals to small lizards and insects, we are told the wonders of the animal kingdom which once were. Juxtaposed with the life-like imagery of wild life are consumerist replicas, commentary on the human desire to own and to control nature. As the story progresses, we see the human impact on the environment and the devastating consequences of rampant consumerism.
Harrison’s extraordinary illustrations seem almost too realistic to be the pencil drawings they are. They have the ability to instil both joy and heartbreak in the reader through the skilful use of detail and depth. The grace and beauty of all the animals, even down to the insects, is captured with exquisite dedication. The images inspire a love and appreciation for the natural world, yet the message of the story is a bleak and uncomfortable reality: will we change our ways before we destroy all life on Earth? Or will we stand and act for all creatures?
With words woven through with alliteration, delightful cadence and evocative visual imagery, Vanishing explores themes of conservation, environmental destruction and extinction of species. Useful as a discussion starter, Vanishing has its place in a primary classroom. Hopefully, its message is one we learn sooner rather than later.
Reviewed by Fiona Miller-Stevens