LIGHT IN THE DARK

STORM METAPHORS ARE THE KEY TO A GOLD COAST AU­THOR’S QUEST TO DE­LIVER WHAT MANY THINK WOULD BE IM­POS­SI­BLE — A PIC­TURE BOOK FOR YOUNG CHIL­DREN ABOUT DO­MES­TIC VI­O­LENCE

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - PETS - WORDS: JOHN AF­FLECK

Dim­ity Pow­ell says she does not go out of her way to find mon­u­men­tally dif­fi­cult top­ics, but her lat­est pub­lished book, At The End Of Holy­rood

Lane, is not the first in­stance of her tak­ing on a taboo sub­ject.

“I hon­estly don’t wake up and think let’s write a pic­ture book with hard con­tent,” she says. “Such books are of­ten dif­fi­cult to ex­e­cute well in a way that has global ap­peal, and are hard to con­vince oth­ers to pub­lish let alone read. And yet, there’s a very real need for them.”

A year ago Dim­ity and Mel­bourne artist Nicky John­ston sim­i­larly stunned the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try and read­ers when they launched an ab­sorb­ing pic­ture book — again for lit­tle lids — about grief, beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated and giv­ing a sim­ple ac­count of a mother’s death and how the fa­ther and his lit­tle daugh­ter had to deal with it.

The in­spi­ra­tion for The Fix-It Man had come from an un­likely mo­ment when Dim­ity’s own daugh­ter — as a tod­dler — ac­ci­den­tally knocked over a china bowl and, sur­vey­ing the thou­sand pieces scat­tered across the tiled floor, op­ti­misti­cally de­clared to her mum: “Don’t worry, daddy can fix it.’’

Years later, with that mo­ment still in mind, she be­gan piec­ing to­gether her story on grief. This time in­spi­ra­tion for At The End Of

Holy­rood Lane, a book deal­ing with the dark and con­fronting topic of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, has come from con­ver­sa­tions Dim­ity had with Dei­dre Hanna, founder and CEO of Par­adise Kids, a Gold Coast or­gan­i­sa­tion that has in­vested more than 20 years into the phys­i­cal, emo­tional, so­cial and spir­i­tual sup­port of chil­dren with trauma.

“It was Deirdre Hanna’s dec­la­ra­tion that more pic­ture books on DV were needed that set the wheels in mo­tion for me,’’ Dim­ity says.

“Up un­til then, I never en­vis­aged I would write about such a topic.’’

As she pon­dered the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble task, a char­ac­ter emerged in her imag­i­na­tion — Flick, a child who would be ap­peal­ing, play­ful yet vul­ner­a­ble.

“Nicky cap­tured her per­son­al­ity beau­ti­fully,’’ Dim­ity says of the award­win­ning il­lus­tra­tor.

“This story touches on just one as­pect of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It was not easy to re­search. I found my­self pulling away from the bru­tal­ity of what I was read­ing many times. De­press­ingly, nearly ev­ery­one you come across has ex­pe­ri­enced some level of emo­tional or phys­i­cal abuse, ei­ther per­son­ally as a vic­tim or at some sec­ondary level. I was able to draw on sit­u­a­tions like this to in­ject gen­uine emo­tion into Flick’s story.’’

The Gold Coast knows only too well the hor­ror of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and con­tin­ues to reel from the sav­agery of sev­eral bru­tal mur­ders. But there are myr­iad cases that re­main hid­den away be­hind closed doors, with fright­ened part­ners and — trag­i­cally — chil­dren walk­ing on egg shells or hid­ing away, try­ing to sec­ond-guess the moods of a tyrant.

“Pic­ture books have the unique abil­ity to de­liver re­put­edly taboo top­ics in safe, non­judg­men­tal ways,” Dim­ity says.

“Death, di­vorce, gen­der is­sues, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, these are not con­sid­ered nor­mal pic­ture book top­ics and yet you will not find any more nor­mal ex­pe­ri­ences than these in real life. Even very young chil­dren have the ca­pac­ity to recog­nise them­selves or their own sit­u­a­tions in pic­ture book sto­ries.

“It’s what makes them so ap­peal­ing and re­lat­able. But a pic­ture book story not only pro­vides mir­rors for chil­dren, it of­fers win­dows through which they may glimpse into the lives of oth­ers sim­i­lar to them.’’

So along with en­ter­tain­ing and en­thralling, pic­ture books en­cour­age em­pa­thy and in­crease un­der­stand­ing and tol­er­ance at an age when many so­cial mind­sets form, she says.

“This is a pow­er­ful at­tribute to ex­ploit — and one I find im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore from a cre­ative point of view.

“Even though I en­joy pic­ture book sto­ries that are mostly froth and bub­ble, the ones that earn per­ma­nent places on my book­shelves are those that have that ex­tra sense of won­der, emo­tion and in­tent.

“In­ter­est­ingly, when Nicky and I first men­tioned to the read­ing pub­lic that our next book to­gether tack­led do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, the unan­i­mous re­sponse was: ‘Good. Fi­nally!’ We both found that in­ter­est­ing and telling.’’

For her hero Flick, the telling point in the story comes when the lit­tle girl is ex­hausted by the fury of in­ces­sant storms and re­fuses to run any­more.

“Flick is no longer flee­ing from the pur­su­ing storm across the pages from left to right. She al­ters di­rec­tion in an ul­ti­mate act of de­fi­ance,’’ Dim­ity says.

The book launches to­mor­row at Bris­bane Square Li­brary.

“PIC­TURE BOOKS HAVE THE UNIQUE ABIL­ITY TO DE­LIVER RE­PUT­EDLY TABOO TOP­ICS IN SAFE, NON­JUDG­MEN­TAL WAYS.”

At The End of Holy­rood Lane Au­thor: Dim­ity Pow­ell Il­lus­tra­tor: Nicky John­ston Pub­lisher: EK Books

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.