Zana Fraillon knows how to write a story filled with magic and wonder. She also knows how to expertly draw you into the worlds she creates, fully and wide-eyed, leaving you with a permanent imprint on your heart.
Her latest book – The Gargoyle – with stunning illustrations by Ross Morgan, is a picture book for the ages. Using the story of the gargoyle and the child, Zana brings in themes of ageing, kindness, conservation and noticing.
He’s old, this gargoyle. Very old. Older than me. Older than anyone. He looks tired. If I had a seat, I would give it to him.
He shuffles past me and stands near the door and watches the city smushing past.
I think I hear him sigh. An echoey, achy, hollow sort of sigh, like the wind when it gusts down lanes and through tunnels and in and out of the big drains that stretch under the city.
This is the moving story of an old gargoyle, forced off his rooftop to make way for a new development in a barren cityscape, and the child who encounters him on an overcrowded train. When the gargoyle is ordered off the train, he leaves his suitcase behind. The child opens the case and unleashes the gargoyle’s many memories of the city and its inhabitants. When the case crumbles, leaving nothing but a small seed, the child decides to find a place to bring the gargoyle, and the soul of the city, back.
An unforgettable story about conservation, ageing and legacies which will leave a forever imprint on your heart.
The old gargoyle gets onto the train. Nobody notices him, except the boy. Nobody seems to care how tired and alone he seems. It seems the gargoyle has lost all hope. As the train travels on through the night, the boy becomes closer to the gargoyle. He begins to notice the magic and the joy that drifts from his cracked old skin. The boy begins to stand up for the gargoyle, to offer him kindness. As a result, the gargoyle leaves him a gift on the train; a gift of a long life lived. Nobody notices the magic of this gift, except maybe, just maybe, one man might, just a little bit.
The boy is left with a memory, a seed, a chance to make people see the world again, to notice.
This picture book took me back to my own childhood and the magic of stories my parents read to me. The illustrations are rich and complex, with Ross using a deep blue background on which to shine puddles of golden light, that echo the relationship of the gargoyle and the boy, travelling together through a dark night, towards hope.
The perfect book for ages 5 to adulthood, this story will stay with you long after you close the cover. It will leave young readers full of magic and hope and possibility and show them that even when the world seems to have forgotten about wildness and nature and slowing down, about noticing each other and being in the here and now, there is always a seed, there is always a puddle of light – they just need to look for the forgotten gargoyles.
Available everywhere. Teacher notes here.