Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (Walker Books) ISBN: 978 1 4063 6841 3
'Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller, some beetles arrive. Could they build a tree fort?'
At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking you were about to pick up a book written in another language, in fact, you are. But what language is it written in?
This beautifully crafted book by Ellis Carson speaks many languages to many people. It speaks a universal language using both visual narrative and a language we can't speak fluently but will quickly understand. In fact, the younger you are, the quicker you will 'get it'.
Carson takes us on a journey of the circle of life. She carries us through the pages of this book on the wings and legs of her protagonists: insects, a spider, a slug and a visiting bird. The central character, silent and consistent however, is the plant that begins to grow at the beginning of the story. 'What is that?' the insects ask, using their own language that we find ourselves emerging into as we progress through each page. The conversations get deeper, plans are made, a community forms, events happen, creatures come and go.
It is the simplest of themes, yet, the complexities that arise from it are marvellous. As the plant grows, opportunities arise, questions are asked and many go unanswered, some are answered with imagination and creativity. It is a micro world that in turn, reflects our own, through fresh, young eyes.
Carson's illustrations are strong and slightly naive in style. Their simplicity allows her to carry through the layers of intricate events happening on each page. A tree fort being built in the new plant as it gets bigger, insects busying themselves with tasks to help each other create something new. The arrival of a spider and her web being built, incorporated dangerously into the fort (some of the insects don't seem to know the potential danger). The demise of the spider and the eventual death of the plant as it reaches the end of it's life.
If we were shorter, more observant, had or took more time to watch and listen, perhaps this book is just a snapshot of what really exists out there. Young children will engage with the strong images and the visual story, they will relate to the universal language and will delight in the play with sounds and exclamations from the creatures in the story. It is a world they are closer to than most adults and to delve into this book is a journey back to a place of innocence and simplicity.
All I can say is go there, find respite, read it over and over and do so, occasionally, with a child by your side.
'Ru daddin doodin unk furt!' '
Illustrations from Carson Ellis' book, Du Iz Tak?
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