Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
A child with imagination, who loves drama, theatre, adventure, AND dogs, will love Pierre’s Not There.
This delightful piece of escapism was inspired by the author, Ursula Dubosarsky our Children’s Laureate, having the good fortune to accidentally visit the Queen’s theatre in Versailles when she was much younger.
Following a ferry trip across Sydney Harbour, Lara accompanies her mother who has come to clean a house. While her mother is busy, Lara stumbles on an old puppet theatre and a box of hand-made puppets in a dark and dusty loft. There she meets a boy, Pierre. He is saddened by the loss of his parents and is hoping to search for, and find, his grandmother.
For the child who has spent hours making papier mache puppet characters, constructed props and entertained the family with a play, this book is a small jewel.
The plot is beautifully and thrillingly written on traditional lines. Wolves lurk, grandmothers searched for, there is a possible family tragedy, and a father who is awakened from a very long sleep. Mr Punch, beastly behaviour included, appears, and plays a convincing villain. Animal lovers will welcome the gentle old horse who proves to be heroic and earns his ‘happily ever after’ in the form of a river by a field of wild flowers. It is the dog, sometimes mistaken for a wolf, who dominates most scenes and is in fact a transformed Lara!
Sydney is the real backdrop and the Harbour with its ferries anchors the beginning of the book. It then transforms into a play featuring scenes, directions, and a full script for the characters and all the action.
Budding actors/actresses, designers and directors would enjoy the challenge and fun of staging Pierre’s Not There. More importantly, they could be inspired to create their own small masterpiece. The template is here.
During the long, hot Summer holidays, this is a wonderful way to escape the sun and to construct happy memories that brighten the years ahead. This gem of a book could be the springboard for the beginning of a brilliant career for an exceptional child with talent in this direction! If not, for many others, it is an original and enjoyable diversion.
The illustrations are lively and are a perfect compliment to the text. Christopher Nielsen, the much-awarded artist, has captured the spirit of the book in simple black and white.
But it is the gifted author who had shared her love of puppetry and drama in a quite irresistible way. It appeals not only to children, but to, hopefully, many adults who are fortunate enough to read this book. Ursula Dubosarsky has published over sixty books and won many accolades both here and overseas. Nominated for both the Hans Christian Andersen and the Astrid Lindberg awards is a measure of the quality of her work.
Pierre’s Not There is evidence that, as our current Children’s Laureate, she wears her laurels well.
Pierre’s Not There
by Ursula Dubosarsky
Allen and Unwin
ISBN 978 1 7605 2593 4
$16.99; 192 pages