This is a truly exceptional book and if you have the opportunity you must visit the Mirror travelling exhibition of the original artwork of the book. I’ve written about Mirror many times before, but here is my official review which was originally published in tiny and little.
This is one special book that every family should have on their bookcase, not only because of its universal story line but because this book has been constructed like no other. It almost re-invents the way we read books.
Mirror is a wordless book. The only words we read are in Jeannie Baker’s author’s note explaining that two families living on different sides of the world can live so differently but at the same time be so alike.
The book is essentially two stories in one. Mirror explores the ins and outs of daily life within families. We follow the lives of two boys and their families; one boy lives in Sydney, Australia and the other in Rose Valley, Morocco. Mirror has been constructed cleverly allowing you to explore the images and the journeys of two families simultaneously. As the title of the book indicates, the pages of these two stories mirror one another.
There are many differences between these two families. They live within different landscapes where the environment has been used and changed by humans to different degrees; They eat at different dining tables; They buy and sell using different currency and they observe different beliefs.
Despite these differences, the two families share similar routines. They each prepare food to eat, have household chores to complete, have animals to feed and travel to their market place to shop or trade.
Although these two families live thousands of kilometres apart, they are connected in many ways. The Moroccan story begins with the weaving of a carpet rug which the family later trades for other needed produce. This very rug is purchased by the Australian boy and his father on a shopping trip.
The rug later inspires the young Australian boy to undertake some research on Morocco. He uses the internet to find information and draws a picture of Morocco. On the other side of the world another young boy also likes to draw, but he draws in the sand of the desert. This boy also enjoys time on the computer, a new purchase for his family on their shopping trip.
Jeannie Baker’s artwork does not disappoint. You could easily spend hours poring over the intricate illustrations and find something new each time. The attention to detail is extraordinary. You will simply want to reach in and stroke the woollen jumper on the baby or dig your hand into the hessian bags and let the spices run through your fingers.
Jeannie Baker truly is a master of creating the most intricate and textural art using a range of natural and artificial materials, including steel, timber, fabric and foliage.
There are so many things to look out for. Baker has focussed on the smallest of elements that could easily go unnoticed. It is these elements in the backgrounds of each page that really help you to understand the community and lifestyle in each of the boy’s worlds. In Australia, there are the football team colours and dogs being pushed in prams. In Morocco, there are donkeys for transport and a bustling market place. She also connects the families through texture and colour. Each of the boys wears red, while their younger siblings wear yellow woollen jumpers.
This is a universal story, void of words, which makes it an accessible story to any family, of any culture and of any language.
Have you read Mirror? How would you rate it?
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd, November 2010
Suitable for:Ages 3+
Awards: ABIA Picture Book of the Year for Younger Children 2011, Indie Book of the Year in Chidlren’s Category 2011, Premier’s Literary Awards for Children’s Literature 2011, CBCA Picture Book of the Year 2011- shortlisted.
RRP: $39.95 (Aud)