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The City by Armin Greder Through this accomplished picture book, Greder has again given an ominous warning about the dangers of giving in to our fears. Through the loving relationship of the mother and child, it is shown that while our desire to shield our children from the dangerous things in life, we can go too far and end up creating insecure, unprepared and frightened children who are worse off. This message is not just a warning for overprotective parents but for all who fear the dangers in the world and imagine they can be shielded from them, be that as an individual or a nation. I love Greder's art work in this book and how he reveals a lot of the thematic concerns through it. The woman's caring face is juxtaposed with her entire black outfit (even before it becomes her attire of mourning her dead husband). Colour is utilised sparingly and the blackness of the text speaks volumes. I love the double page metaphorical wolf that represents night and the fears that the child must now face alone as it becomes obvious that the mother's plan to shield him from "the terrible things that happen in life" was futile. Also the extensive use of white when the child is alone seems so foreboding. While some of the images are a little clichéd, like the above mentioned wolf and the ravens that represent the mother's death, it is done so well that you forget it's a common symbol. The language in this book is so rich. It begins as a simple tale about a mother who wishes the best for her child; it sounds innocent enough but as they travel, the ominous tone is set through the description of arctic winds, soaked clothes, ruined barns and deserted terrain. The over use of the personal pronoun "she" shows how much the mother is doing for her son in her over zealous attempts to protect him; this self focus is reinforced when on a single page the mother is combing her son's hair, he is frowning and the sum of the text reads "She was happy." The tone becomes even more frightening after her death when "Ants clean her bones". I also love his use of short monosyllabic sentences like "He was cold." The cover is an interesting one as it is one of the city that they flee and shows the inhabitants of this city enjoying a masquerade. It seems jovial yet there is a sense that it is a façade, especially when the book tells you there has been a war going on forever. City characters only appear once in the picture book where their colourful costumes and smiles make the mother even more suspicious, yet the boy is intrigued. It would be interesting to discuss with students why this was chosen as the cover and how the city represents our greatest fears. For me, this was a highly anticipated book and it did not disappoint. It is a great discussion starter for students, especially when looking at the world they are growing up in. I would use this text as the basis for a unit in year 10 or 11; it is that thought provoking and well created. I also loved Armin Greder's The Island and think an author study would be well worthwhile. It is a great picture book to look at for how text and graphics interplay to present the message. Dianne Bond, Broulee, NSW The writer begins with an echo of the classic child's fairy tale - 'Some time ago' - but this is no innocent tale of safe childhood. It is an exploration of fear. Greder has written a spare, hauntingly grey text, exploring the nature of parenting on one level, and the nature of society on another. This is a philosophical and relevant text for today. The mood of the text is timeless, with illustrations, charcoal or heavy pencil, with just a little colour to show the love borne by the mother for the son; the light he brings to her life: illustrations that could be about the Holocaust, or any war of nations or tribes. The spare richness of the text is enhanced by sparse, well chosen words; poetic, evocative phrases: `Winter fell on the land. / The sky was grey and heavy. / Storms tore at the house. / Ice rain drenched it and snow pressed on it. / Moths began to gnaw at the curtains. / Woodworm hollowed the rafters. / Ants were cleaning her bones.' On some pages, the reader is forced to 'read' the entire page or risk losing a brief piece of written text, as the words may be almost 'hidden' in an unexpected corner of a page. This too could be of interest in discussing the publication process, editing and layout design decisions. This metaphorical text could be used across a range of curriculum areas: Art, Philosophy, History, English, Studies of Societies and Environment: equally it could be used to teach

writing or the analysis of writing. I found it a highly fascinating read, one which I have already read several times. It is not a book for children, as the loneliness of the bereft child could be extremely disturbing for a child, particularly one who has suffered the loss of a parent or other close relative; but rather more suited to mid to upper secondary or adult reading. There are lessons for all times and all cultures in this story. It could be seen to be about Russia, or China, or Israel, or any nation state which has withdrawn from the world and then returned to it: whether the withdrawal was through choice or otherwise. Helen Wilde, SA The City by Armin Greder is another excellent text which uses a blend of visual and print text in order to convey messages in subtle yet effective ways. Muted colours suggest suppressed feelings in the characters and bleak inner and outer lives. The plot comments on the ever-explored relationship between mothers and their sons. It infers that there is a point at which mothers can smother and stifle their sons by being overprotective and thereby restricting growth and development and exploration. Greder is a master-craftsman in the use of colour, placement, size and perspective of visual objects. The visuals send out strong messages, as do the choice of visual symbols. This is an excellent resource for the senior English classroom. It lends itself to the examination of all the conventions of picture books. It would be useful to explore concealed ideologies, gender relationships and humanity vs. environment. Loss is also explored within this beautifully told story. A highly recommended text for High school students. Mel McGuinness, St Peter's Catholic College, NSW The City is an allegorical fable about a mother and son who escape the city `where the sky is always grey and winter would sometimes last three years'. The mother has experienced the loss of her husband who died in the war and decides that she needs to protect her son from the bleakness of the city. They embark on a journey where they find a place in the country. The mother creates a home for the son she loves very much but when she dies she leaves her son alone, isolated and vulnerable. Carrying his mother's bones, the boy begins his solo journey `through the wintry desolation' in search of the city. Like The Island, The City addresses themes of isolation and fear. It also addresses themes of parental love, protection, freedom and grief. Also like The Island, it features the dark charcoal illustrations and nameless characters. The City could be used for teaching allegorical fables, thematic studies and visual literacy, in particular, symbolism. The Island is one of my favourite picture books for older readers. The City is another picture book for older readers that I would gladly incorporate into units of work. Lauren Sims, NSW

Amin Greder's The City has a wealth of possibilities. The universality of the nature of motherly love and fear for one's child underpins Greder's work. The large format book with limited text accompanying images in predominantly grey black palette evoke the limitations of the mother's desire to keep her child from harm and the possibilities of the city. The use of stronger colour when the lost travellers arrive clearly signals that turning point for the mother and child as she continues to deny him what she fears and he stands looking longingly at what might be possible beyond his world. Like The Island before it, this picture book has more to offer than the words and pictures alone. The economy of the drawings and the text allow readers to interpret ideas about love, isolation and alienation, belonging and journeys and growing up. For HSC students, this text would be appropriate as a text of their own choosing. The book could also be used in a unit on families and/or war across all stages.

Ann Young, NSW

The City is in intriguing journey that revolves around several tensions: the city and the country, strangers and family and between hermitage and the vibrancy of cosmopolitan life. Greder's opening line positions his tale in an otherworld setting. The illustrations are the dominant aspect of his picture book as the written text is decentred and almost reduced to the margins. To highlight this further, Greder's prose is economical with text such as `She had a child. A son.' A couple of interesting exercises might be to cover all the written text up in the book and have students write the text for each double page spread. This could be followed with several readings, discussion and a comparison to Greder's version. Secondly, the illustrations of The City resonate with The Island, a collaborative effort between Libby Gleeson and Armin Greder. Again, a comparative exercise of the use of vectorality, line, texture, colour et al. might be an interesting exercise. There are weighty themes in The City: death, suffering and a mother's need to protect her child. Coupled with this is the omnipresence and symbolism of winter, which could make for a good point of exploration into contemporary trends for picture books being used as a medium to appeal to an older audience as they deal with more serious issues. Another element is the existential sense of space as nothingness is signified repeatedly. An intriguing section of the book is when we are made aware of the duplicity of the raven figures when the protagonist's mother dies on a moonless night. The motif of time is felt throughout the narrative too as is the strength of the mother's power, even after she has died. However, Greder ends the narrative with hope as the protagonist fights his `inner demons', thereby overcoming the strangleholds of the past and searches for the city. Mark Rafidi, Head of English, Shoalhaven Anglican School Armin Greder's most recent picture book, The City, is a sensory delight, from the royal blue corrugated inside covers to the evocative charcoal illustrations and limited splashes of colour. Greder's illustrations depict emotion in a startling way, carrying the reader on a journey of pain, terror, hope, and joy. A mother's love for her son becomes obsessive after the death of the child's father. She takes her child and departs a war-ravaged city, protecting her son, but at the same time isolating him from the colours of life. When the mother dies many years later, the grown boy has to deal with the demons of grief and loss, to battle his own fears, and to make his own way in life. The verbal text in this book is pushed to the boundaries of the page, isolated and peripheralised like the child. The personal journey is carried by a bricolage of illustrations across the page(s) which imply movement across space and time. The dark full-page wordless spread that opens up across the pages to depict fear and loss (with traditional metaphors of forest and wolves) arrives, then, with all-encompassing focus on raw emotion. While Greder's work invokes a particularly traditional Eastern European style, his work travels across cultures in the way it carries the depth of human emotions. This is a book that may be challenging for the young child, but grows with every reading. It may be read as the story of war and rebuilding, of refugees, of death, grief, love, bravery. The young man's battle with grief, as he attacks his own fear and alone-ness with a bag containing the bones of his mother, is terrifying but filled with the raw strength of moving on. This picture book is complex. It asks difficult questions of the reader: is it possible to love too much? Can children be protected from the evils in the world? What are the personal effects of war and homelessness? How do we move on after devastating loss? Armin Greder is one of the greatest contemporary story tellers. He deals with the real in a way that draws on centuries of narrative tradition, yet his latest story is heart-wrenchingly relevant to all of us. Trish Lunt, Northcote, VIC


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Microsoft Word - Teacher Review 9781742371429.doc