Small Things – Mel Tregonning
24th August 2016, Allen&Unwin
40 pages, 5/5 stars
I don’t usually review graphic stories, but Small Things was too beautiful not to share. It is a beautifully illustrated story about an ordinary boy dealing with his feelings. All of the artwork is in shades of grey. Despite not having any words, it tells a compelling story.
Worries and fears follow a little boy around; they take the form of monsters, nibbling away at his sense of self. He eventually finds solace knowing that other people have the same monsters, and they help him find ways to keep them at bay. They are never really gone though, lurking in the background even in the final image, highlighting that it is a constant fight to retain our sense of self-worth.
Have you ever felt like you were falling apart? Like your self worth was being eaten up? This book helped me to visualise emotions of anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness. It will be immensely valuable for people who don’t connect with their emotions particularly well, and it will also work for schools, helping children to understand their own emotional turmoil, and that of their peers.
This story’s path to publication is devastating. Mel began illustrating this graphic novel, about the universal feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, in 2008. In 2014, she took her own life. After her family pulled together the pieces she had left behind, Australian illustrator Shaun Tan finished the final three artworks for Mel’s book, readying it for publication. I had never heard of Mel before receiving a copy of Small Things, but she has left behind other works which I will definitely be seeking out. If you’re interested in learning more about Mel’s story, this ABC Hack article is great.
Small Things has been released as a lovely big hardcover picture book. It may not have many pages, but it tells a beautiful story. It’s about finding your way in the world; it reminds us that we are not alone; it encourages empathy for others. It reminds us of the importance of recuperating; it shows us that we can rebuild our sense of self. And it is overwhelmingly a piece of art.
An ordinary boy in an ordinary world.
With no words, only illustrations, Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with his worries, but who learns that help is always close by.
A universal story, told simply and with breathtaking beauty, about dealing with sadness, anxiety, depression, heartache or loss, and finding your way in the world.
Buy Small Things from Booktopia.
Do books and stories help you work through your emotions?