Friday 3 April 2020

ReadItDaddy's Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 3rd April 2020: "The Garden of Inside Outside" by Chiara Mezzalama, Regis Lejonc with translation by Sarah Ardizzone (Book Island)

Oh my oh my, this is something rather special indeed, in fact this is the sort of picture book that keeps us writing about picture books.

Our Picture Book of the Week is the utterly sublime "The Garden of Inside-Outside" by Chiara Mezzalama, Regis Lejonc and Sarah Ardizzone.

Imagine being uprooted from your comfortable life to go and live as the daughter of an Italian ambassador to a war-torn foreign country. We've seen many books about migration and the plight of children amidst war-torn countries, but so far I can't recall one where the whole aspect of what happens when civil unrest breaks out as seen from the perspective of an 'outsider' before.

Chiara's semi-autobiographical tale, gloriously illustrated by Regis Lejonc in a crisp clear graphic novel style, and subtly but expertly translated by Sarah Ardizzone maps out the life of young Chiara and her brother as they join their father in a palatial residence that almost feels like a protective bubble - as the scenes outside of their high garden walls and gates are scenes of unrest and devastation.

One day while playing in the garden Chiara spies a young boy peering through the railings. He's brave enough to hop the fence and come into their protected garden, and though they share no common language, Chiara and the boy strike up a friendship.

Chiara's brother urges her to tell their parents about the boy, but Massoud - her new friend - becomes the keeper of secrets, and their garden becomes his sanctuary from the cruelty happening outside.

It's exquisitely crafted this, and richly descriptive - though Sarah's translation does a truly amazing job of capturing Chiara's "voice" and her child-like view of her situation, as the story of her and Massoud's friendship unfolds, taking an unexpected twist or two along the way.

This deserves a truckload of awards, one of the most impressive books about the many facets of war and the way it affects everyday lives, no matter what side you're on.

Sum this book up in a sentence: A truly unique picture book, wrought in graphic novel style but with a beautiful yet simple message conveyed about hope and sanctuary amidst a country in upheaval, and a blossoming friendship between two children on opposite sides of the garden wall.

"The Garden of Inside-Outside" by Chiara Mezzalama, Regis Lejonc and Sarah Ardizzone is out now, published by Book Island (kindly supplied for review).