Picture book by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley. “Teacup”

Some picture books have images that are not only captivating, but these images also leave a haunting visual memory. Teacup is a beautiful story examining large concepts and the hidden meaning in the story remains in your mind long after the book is closed, just as the images glue in crevices of the mind, shaping the way you think.

Within the pages of this moving picture book, Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley examine a pertinent social issue of refugees and accepting asylum seekers. This is not a book containing a grand political statement, neither is it an expose on the horrors and atrocities that people are trying to escape when they seek asylum.

What it contains is a whimsical and imaginative story of a solitary small boy who leaves his home in a small boat to find another with a few meagre items and a teacup of earth from where he used to play. The oil painting illustrations show the majesty of a vast ocean and even though they are beautiful, you get the very real feeling of how alone one must feel when navigating the seas to find a new homeland.

Illustrations in "Teacup"

As the boy travels, in his teacup, a seed begins to grow. Increasing the whimsy in the story, before long his boat contains a beautiful tree.

Tree in Teacup

The boy discovers land, and one day a little girl in a boat with a broken teacup also discovers the land.

Asylum seekers

The story ends with a simple image giving you a glimpse into the possibility that the two children had a happy ending.

Teacup Ending

This book is suitable for all ages, but I feel it is an ideal book to read to upper primary children. Too often we relegate picture books as only belonging to early childhood. We must not, we should not! There is so much artistry and joy that can be discovered in picture books. What a great opportunity it is for children (and adults) to discover meaning beyond the written word.

I actually this is a book that would do well to belong in all school libraries. It is not a book that preaches its message, but rather presents you with images and leads you to consider the world we live in and the lives that live within our world. It is an ideal book to promote discussion and encourage thinking.


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