Small Things by Mel Tregonning

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Small Things by Mel Tregonning

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A really quite lovely graphic novel, with not a word of dialogue or real text, that shows the powers of imaginative imagery in telling a story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 40 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781743368720

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Our character is a young lad at school, niggled at by many things. He's the last to be picked for sports – if at all. Nobody wants to sit with him in lunch break. The simple maths exam questions only seem set on tripping him up as much as the other kids do. Like I say, he has many little things nibbling at him – and that, in this instance, is completely literally. It seems whenever he leaves a shadow, horrid floating blobby piranha type things are drifting out of the darkness and actually taking chunks out of him…

The whole representation of the evils of these nasty critters raises a host of questions – is he fully aware of what they are and what they're doing? Has he really given up on trying to get rid of them, or at least stopping their attack? What is the poor lad to do?

The fact that the nearest thing you have to read here are the test papers he gets such mediocre scores on mean you are forced to provide your own answers. Yes, this is a completely 'wordless' graphic novel – a tale that anybody from nine and up should fully understand, even with the vagueness carefully, artfully provided by the creator. It looks like our lad needs something to protect him from the attacks – he has a sort of UFO-styled SAD lamp cum night-light, but the problem he has to live with seems one without help, and entirely of other people's making. But again – who's to say that's a certain fact here?

What is without doubt is the craft of the artist. Purely in shades of grey and black we get one of the brightest graphical stories out there. The eyes are sort of googly, Disneyfied eyes at times, but the characters have to be expressive when we can't hear them speak, and we don't need to hear them here, such is the direction they undergo. Key too is the subtle way the critters are introduced, allowing the scale of the 'threat' to go from the tiny detail to the high drama of a double-sized splash page. There is a weird decision made when one of the characters seems to change hairstyle halfway down the page for no reason, and I'm not sure what exactly happens at one point, but the intrigue and mystery of the whole piece is consistent. And the visual qualities are sustained, too, meaning that – for just a forty page story – this is a completely re-readable drama, and a quite wonderful one.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The story of this book itself is a remarkable one. After years of hard work, the creator, a lady in the prime of life and with everything going for her, at least talent-wise, took her own life. Her fellow artist, and one we regularly recommend himself, Shaun Tan was instrumental in nudging the book over the finish line. Our video right will fill you in more.

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Buy Small Things by Mel Tregonning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Small Things by Mel Tregonning at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Small Things by Mel Tregonning at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Small Things by Mel Tregonning at


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