It may be impossible to know if childhood anxiety is on the rise, or if society is simply and finally calling it what it is. But in either case, the challenge is clear: many kids experience intense fear and uncertainty in an increasingly changing world. “Small Things” by Mel Tregonning (Pajama Press Inc., 2018) confronts this reality with stunning illustrations that depict a boy whose worry follows him around like so many clinging monsters, and eats away at him like chipping China. The book is wordless, but the black and white panel illustrations tell a thousand words about the plight of anxiety and ultimately the healing power of acceptance and connection. The story is made all the more poignant by the fact that the story was published posthumously.
Tregonning committed suicide in 2014, at age 31, leaving behind an uncompleted outline, sketches and notes for a story about a child who feels isolated in his worries. Celebrated author/illustrator, Shaun Tan, best known for the similarly silent and moving picture book “The Arrival” (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007), and who had been familiar with Tregonning’s work for years, was invited to finish off Tregonning’s original vision and techniques so the book could be published, at Tregonning’s family’s request.
The book now stands as a legacy of a talented artist whose life was short but whose work and vision has granted her a kind of immortality.
“Small Things” is available for checkout at Fort Vancouver Regional Library, or for sale online at www.powells.com. For a peek inside the book and related resources such as teaching guides and a list of awards the book has garnered during its first year in publication, visit www.pajamapress.ca/book/small_things.