I live in a house filled with music. Just like the athlete or artist, the musician commits to practice at every opportunity to hone their skills and perfect their craft. As my daughter prepares herself for her year twelve exams and auditions to enter the Conservatorium to study classical piano, I am treated every day to her beautiful renditions. The classes were worth it. Enduring those early 'tinky tonk' repetitive years has now paid off, however I think my daughter would like to own, just for a short while, the gloves that appear in Julie Hunt and Dale Newman's award winning graphic novel, KidGlovz.
Hunt and Newman's book, KidGlovz (Allen & Unwin, ISBN: 9781742378527, 2015), is an emotional story that connects to the Dahlian and ancient folk tale style of story telling. Where terrible things happen, where people are captured and kept prisoner, adults are not to be trusted and children are the heroes and magic and friendship are the stronger powers.
'There is a town in the mountains not far from here where people lock their pianos on the night of the full moon. It makes no difference – the keys move up and down and the air is filled with wild music.
Someone once thought they saw a white bird flying between the trees. But the truth of the matter is that it’s not a bird that flies on the night of the full moon but a pair of white gloves. I know this because they used to belong to me.'
It is the story of a child prodigy, Kidglovz, who can magically play beautiful, and is kept locked away in tortuous circumstances in order to make the biggest profit for his 'owner', Dr Eronious Spin. His piano teacher, Lovegrove, is heart broken about his circumstances and then, by chance, a young boy called Shoelace, a tightrope walker, enters Kidglovz life and soon, things begin to change for the better and for worse. Kidglovz is potentially rescued but is it into the hands of more evil, greedy adults? Friendships are betrayed, relationships are broken and Kidglovz has to learn to live a new life. And what of his magical gloves?
The emotive, soft, black and white sketched images tell the story in true graphic novel style. Newman's illustrations move through the potentially clinical story board style with warmth and gentleness. We are carried through and into the story with soft lines, dark shadows, wonderful contrast and well etched characters. With the protagonist being nine years old, the imagery sits well with the younger age group the readership starts at. With touches of humour to soften a sad story, Newman creates a wonderful visual narrative that supports Hunt's evocative story.
Whilst words and text are minimal in the graphic novel format, the process of creating a story in this style takes a long time with much planning and communication between both author and illustrator. Hunt's words, including the words that we do not read but were written as story to help direct the illustrator, have worked well with strengthened Newman's narrative, providing a strong, seamless foundation. Obviously, the seamless dance of narrative, words and pictures can only come from a strong and well balanced team of creators.
This is a story that is suitable for a wide age of readers and we own two copies at our house: one for me and my daughter has one in her personal collection for when she moves away. Whilst my daughter would not wish to suffer the consequences associated with the magic gloves, I know that she is able to insert herself into the story and ride the journey with Kidglovz. You don't have to be a musician to understand it though. It is a universal story for everyone.
This multi award winning book is a must for your bookshelf and your collection of 'keepers.' It is destined to become a classic.
(Reviewers note/confession: As a reviewer I need to be impartial and honest about the books I present to my readers. In the Australian Children's and YA publishing industry, most creators know each other and sometimes we know each other quite well. Often we review books created by our friends and peers (this is hard to avoid) and I endeavour to maintain a professional approach to this task. My opinions of this book and others I review are not because of friendships but from a genuine response to great literature for children.)
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