The simplicity of Australian author/artist Jeannie Baker‘s latest title makes it simply stupendous. Open the book and you have two halves on either side, the left which begins in English, and right which starts with Arabic. To tell you too much would be wasteful of the gasp of delight that you will certainly have on your own discovery … so stop reading here or endure just a few details …
Two families – one in Sydney, Australia, the other in southern Morocco’s Valley of Roses (“famous for its rose perfume,” Baker adds in the final author’s note) – experience what seem to be very different lives, thousands of miles apart.
Turn the pages together on either side, and through exquisite, multi-layered collage, Baker creates a wordless journey of two families going about their busy day. “But some things connect them,” Baker writes on the first page, “just as some things are the same for all families no matter where they live.” Indeed each facing set of pages provide hide-and-seek details that actually connect us all together … no spoilers here … you’ll need to cuddle up with a young ‘un to find a few for yourselves!
“The idea for this book came from my delight traveling in a country very different from my own,” explains Baker at book’s end. “At the time, in my own country, there was much political poisoning of attitudes toward foreigners and foreignness.” Traveling as a “stranger” herself, what Baker realized was not so much that outward differences mattered, but “[i]nwardly we are so alike, it could be each other we see when we look in a mirror.”
Her resulting book could not be a better reminder of the same, shared goals of people everywhere: to be loved by family and friends, to be a part of a community, to belong. Regardless of specific circumstances, our connections define and make us human. While celebrating the unique cultures and traditions that give us our diverse heritages, Baker reminds us with clear, undeniable proof that we are all an interconnected community.
Go get a copy right now. Share it with your children, your immigrant neighbors, yourself. Language not required. Just a few moments of your humanity …