30 August 2010


by Jeannie Baker

Walker Books. Australian, Adult Other, Picture Book, Children Other. Hardcover rrp $39.95

Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

Jeannie Baker’s illustrations are works of art. Every picture invites the fingers to explore texture and detail even though you know the page is flat. Mirror is Jeannie’s latest masterpiece and it surpasses all she has done in the past.
The unusual format opens doors to new worlds, literally. This two-in-one simultaneous read requires no written words. The book on the left opens in the traditional way to reveal suburban Australia, while the book on the right opens as its mirror image.

One boy sleeps in a typical western home while a mother prays and works under the same moon, far away in Morocco. Life in the two places is in constant contrast. Everything from household chores and breakfast foods, through clothing to modes of transport are juxtaposed. Can you see the man on the mobile phone in the middle of the desert market or the football streamers fluttering from a car aerial at the busy pedestrian crossing?

Bustling three lane highways could not differ more from the narrow mountain path where a donkey and its rider have no need for GPS. Call me a dreamer, but I was so absorbed in the intricate details on every page that I didn’t anticipate the delightful twist this story was leading to. The simple truths of contrasting lives were echoing in my mind when the final mirror image struck with clarity.

It’s easy to go shopping for a Moroccan rug in Australia, but what do you buy in Morocco?

Book lovers of all ages will enjoy exploring these two worlds. Every time I return to Mirror, new details surface, offering a deeper understanding of the way our lives echo those of others in different countries. My only regret is that I can’t touch the original images to feel rough clothing, slide my fingers along corrugated roofing, scratch possum fur or dip my finger in the flour that is ground and ready for bread baking.


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