cover image Small Things

Small Things

Mel Tregonning. Pajama (IPS, dist.), $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-77278-042-0

The late Australian artist Tregonning’s wordless graphic tale, completed posthumously with help from Shaun Tan, captures the way anxiety can ravage children’s lives. Dark, dense pencil drawings show a boy whose doll-like head and huge eyes make his sadness and puzzlement easy to perceive. In the opening sequence of panels, he struggles to approach a group of his peers and is met with rejection. His school performance falters (readers see worksheets marked with Xs), and tiny, swirling creatures plague him, eating away at him until his body begins to crumble like a statue. The boy’s parents do not see his pain, but things change when his sister approaches him quietly and shares her own struggle—she has those crumbled bits, too. Now the boy begins to see that the little creatures swarm around more of his peers than he had thought, and he reaches out to one of them. Tregonning creates a visual language for the pain of depression and anxiety, and her story may provide a measure of hope to those who might otherwise have given up in despair. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)