Flight by Nadia Wheatley

Flight has been shortlisted for this year’s CBCA Picture Book category.

This is the category where author and illustrator need to create a ‘unity’ of purpose to appeal to the judges.

In an interview on the CBCA Reading Time blog, Greber mentioned that, even though Wheatley’s theme appealed to him, he was sure he could take on this project as he thought Wheatley’s original text was too “overly descriptive” and didn’t leave him enough creative space.

However, when Wheatley learnt of this, she was happy to revise her story to give him “enough holes in her text for my images to fill.”

Flight is a refugee story and interestingly, Greder has chosen a biblical feel for the first few illustrations.

The story begins with a mother, father and small baby fleeing through the harsh desert on the back of a donkey. They are following the light of a star to find their way.

We are instantly reminded, with Gerber’s haunting, stark drawings that the Nativity scene, one of the central images of the Christian world, is actually a refugee story that so many honour and celebrate every Christmas.

After a few pages, though, we realise that Flight is a very modern story.
Our fleeing family witness bombs exploding on the horizon and hear the rumble of tanks approaching.

Wheatley and Greber draw many more parallels between the plight of the refugees of old and the current refugee crisis. They show the age old difficulty of all refugees in finding a safe haven, being turned away by the locals and locked out by authority figures. They highlight the worry, the danger, the hunger, thirst, fear, sickness and insecurity that is the lot of refugees of any era.

Gerber’s black and white charcoal drawings are dark and gloomy. They capture the harshness and inhospitality of the desert environment as well as its stark beauty.

My CBCA shortlist post is here.

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