Gary is Australian illustrator Leila Rudge’s first solo project, after having illustrated 6 books previously, including the brilliant Mum Goes to Work, for writer Libby Gleeson. Her illustrations look to be completed using mainly coloured pencils, with blocks of colour for emphasis of details, some textural photography, and a clever use of symbols.
I picked this book up and brought it home not because I thought instantly that my children would love it, but because my husband’s name is Gary. It’s not every day you see a book called Gary – you mostly see the name on the ‘going out’ baby name lists each year.
Gary lives in a loft with the other racing pigeons, but he stays home when they go on their races – because he can’t fly. Instead of flying, he does his scrapbook, keeping mementos that the other pigeons bring to him from their adventures. The illustrations show the other pigeons in sports uniforms, while Gary just wears a little blue hat.
Gary is every odd-bod, everybody who sees the world a little differently – whether through attitude or physical disability. I wished that there was a succinct note about why he couldn’t fly and why he was still in a RACING PIGEON loft despite this fact, which would have been fairly obvious to the (invisible) humans that deliberately kept racing pigeons. His journey, however, is one that children can relate to.
Because when Gary finds himself in a tight spot, he uses his brain to puzzle out his way home. The illustrations on these pages are brilliant, using signs and symbols to explain how he returned to his loft, using public transport, thanks to his handy scrapbook. There are plenty of traffic lights and familiar road signs that the roadworks and transport afficianados will love identifying. It is just the sort of book that my 3-year-old gets attached to.
Recommended for kids ages 3 – 6, and for anybody who needs a little inspiration to break their daily routine.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Leila Rudge
Published by Walker Books