The Seed of Doubt by Irena Brignull and Richard Jones

The Seed of Doubt

Irena Brignull and Richard Jones

Walker Books: 2021

ISBN: 9781406389425

Age: 4+

Review by Viv Young

A young boy dreams big dreams about what he will do when he grows up. When he plants a seed that grows into an unusually tall tree, climbing the tree becomes one of those dreams until the boy loses confidence.

The Seed of Doubt is suitable for a wide range of ages to mull over and there is plenty to think about with this fascinating picture book. The story deals most clearly with feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. The boy’s changing interaction with the seed he plants —from initial excitement to disappointment and lack of confidence—may mirror the experience of many children who find tree climbing alluring yet also challenging. The only overt advice for managing self-doubt is to believe in oneself and not give up. This advice is articulated by the father who encourages the child but is also taken on board by the child who reiterates his father’s words at a key juncture. There is perhaps though some implicit advice in the child’s physical contact with the tree, namely the potential role nature can play in restoring and healing.

Indeed, while the story is focused on emotions and overcoming fears, it raises interesting questions about nature and its capacity to both overwhelm and inspire. The boy’s physical contact with the tree ultimately leads to healing and inspiration but for older children who frequently encounter information about environmental crises the tree’s unsettling size and impact on the boy may be especially interesting to explore.

The artwork for The Seed of Doubt is stunning. Sprawling landscapes convey a sense of the wonder of nature, as do the many scenes in which the tree doesn’t quite fit on the page. The background colours are often muted greens, blues, greys and browns, which feel authentic for the natural settings, while touches of very bright colour draw attention to the brilliance of the tree and the exciting views the boy sees from it.

The Seed of Doubt is a book for all ages that is slightly unsettling at times but rewarding in its hopeful and awe-inspiring presentation of nature. The fact that tree climbing is often something of a rite of passage into older childhood and greater physical capacity may make this book particularly relatable for many children.

Jelly-Boy by Nicole Godwin and Christopher Nielsen

Jelly-Boy

Nicole Godwin (author) and Christopher Nielsen (illustrator)
Walker Books: 2020
ISBN: 9781760651237
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

A young jelly fish falls in love with a plastic bag she mistakes for a jelly-boy and follows it into the deep ocean currents.

Jelly-Boy is an imaginative exploration of water pollution from the perspective of ocean creatures. The plot takes its cue from tales of star-crossed lovers—the jelly-girl’s family don’t like this dangerous and different ‘jelly-boy’ yet she follows him anyway. While this may sound serious, when applied to a jelly fish and a plastic bag its humour is clear from the outset. There is, however, a serious undercurrent to this story. The danger to which the text refers is from the perspective of the jelly-fish who do not really understand what this jelly-boy is, but for readers the danger is the water pollution conveyed with great subtlety and force in the illustrations. The tension between text and image is what makes this book particularly powerful—it conveys all the innocence and trust of the animal world as well as the danger pollution poses to it.

The artwork for Jelly-Boy delivers the straightforward message about water pollution and is visually compelling. Each page is alive with colour, pattern and texture, reflecting the great beauty of the ocean world in danger. The repetitive shapes also help the reader to empathise with the jelly-girl and her confusion about jelly-boy—the plastic bag while recognisable is reminiscent of the creatures around it.

Jelly-Boy never mentions water pollution explicitly and that is its great strength—by viewing water pollution from the perspective of the creatures who suffer from it Godwin and Nielsen have managed to create a humorous and deeply moving story.