Review of ‘The Treasure Box’
Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Age Range: Middle Primary – adult
Themes: war, peace, lifetimes, resilience, hope, survival, literature, libraries, story.
With a writer of the calibre of Margaret Wild it was never in doubt that the text would be superb. Add to this Freya Blackwood’s artwork and you have a book that is destined to be a multiple award winning classic.
The story begins… ‘when the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.’
Peter and his father flee their war ravaged city with very little. Before leaving, Peter’s father carefully and lovingly wraps an unnamed book telling people it is their treasure: ‘it is rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold.’
This is a story of the trauma of war and the fragility of life. But it is much more: a reminder that there are things that cannot be destroyed with bombs. Literature, the power of words and stories, strength of human spirit and hope are the true treasures which continue to survive and sustain people through times of great tragedy and devastation.
Margaret Wild has long been known and awarded for her writing, and in this book we see her at her best. In just a few hundred carefully chosen words Wild gifts the reader a powerful tale that is sobering and uplifting, challenging and inspiring.
The quality of the text is equally matched by the illustrations by Freya Blackwood which beautifully complement the story. I may or may not have a teeny tiny obsession with the artwork of Freya Blackwood as noted here, here and here (Must work on being less obvious about my adoration of certain illustrators).
‘The Treasure Box’ is instantly recognisable as the work of Freya (Oh! I used her first name, maybe I can pretend we’re friends?) but she has also employed some amazing paper cutting and diorama techniques, which she talks about in more detail here on her blog.
Included in the collage of the illustrations are pages of text from foreign language editions of ‘The Silver Donkey’ by Sonya Hartnett, as well as ‘Once’ and ‘Then’ by Morris Gleitzman, much loved books for young people about war, hope and survival. That these powerful books are somehow all woven into one another with such skill and beauty adds much to the overall production masterpiece that is ‘The Treasure Box’.
To add this book to your home or school library click here
Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:
- Study other pictures books which deal with war. Some of my favourites include those listed below. We see war depicted on the news and in newspapers. Books such as these listed above give more insight into personal experiences of war. How do books improve our understanding of world events such as wars?
Illustrated Fiction for Older Readers (Middle Primary+) on the Topic of War
‘The Bantam and the Soldier’ by Jennifer Beck and Robyn Belton
‘Rebel!’ By Allan Baillie; ill. Di Wu
‘Lone Pine’ by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner; ill. Sebastian Giaffaglione
‘The Fair Dinkum War’ by David Cox
‘The House that Was Built in a Day: Anzac Cottage’ by Valerie Everett; ill. Barbara McGuire
‘A Day to Remember’ by Jackie French; ill. Mark Wilson
‘Ships in the Field’ by Susanne Gervay & Anna Pignataro
‘Harry and the Anzac Poppy’ by John Lockyer
‘Tail-end Charlie’ by Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom
‘Remembering: the Story of a Soldier’ by Virginia Mayo
‘Do Not Forget Australia’ by Sally Murphy & Sonia Kretschmar
‘My Mother’s Eyes : the Story of a Boy Soldier’ by Mark Wilson
‘Angel of Kokoda’ by Mark Wilson
‘Photographs in the Mud’ by Dianne Wolfer& Brian Harrison-Lever
- Study other works by Margaret Wild and list the themes and topics she covers in her books.
- Study other books by Freya Blackwood and investigate and describe her illustration techniques.
- In your own life, what do you consider your most precious treasure? Illustrate this treasure and write a short passage with reasons why your treasure is so valuable to you.
- If done as a class activity, students treasures illustrations and text could be put inside ‘treasure boxes’ and displayed as class treasure. Time should be allowed for investigating each other’s treasures and reflecting on what is important to us all.
- Consider the sentence: ‘When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.’ Is the writer talking here of just books? What else is lost when a library is destroyed? Think not just of physical items that are lost.
- Many books for young people that deal with war talk of the burning of books by those in power. Why might people in power want to destroy books?
- The book that is treasured is not named throughout the story. What might be the reason for this?
- Look carefully at the colour in the illustrations and how the colours change. How is colour used to convey mood?
- Included in the collage of the illustrations arepages of text from foreign language editions of several books. Use an online translating tool to translate some of the words and list the languages used. Why might languages from around the world have been used?
- Have a go at employing some of the techniques used by Freya Blackwood: collage, paper cutting, diorama, pencil, watercolour. Build up layers to create an illustration that tells a story.