Digby & Claude
NLA Publishing, 2018
48pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Change is coming to Main Street as old, empty buildings make way for people with plans and machinery to build new ones.
From his window, Digby watches in wonder and although a little sad, he is inspired to build something of his own. Across the road in the park he finds an old bathtub that starts as a thinking place but becomes so much more than that, particularly after he is joined by a new friend Claude who has ideas and inspiration as imaginative as Digby’s. Throughout the cold, bitter winter the boys work, play and talk together. But when Claude’s father forbids him to play anymore because it is too dangerous, so without his friend to share it, Digby builds a door, covers it with sticks and throws away the key. And then summer comes…
Inspired by a 1938 newspaper article about homes being demolished in Erskineville, NSW to make way for a government housing development, the first of its kind in Australia, this is a story that explores the concept of “home” as compared to “house”. Is home a physical structure or can it be something less tangible, a place defined by friendships and memories as Digby discovers. IS it about fancy kitchens and luxurious furniture or about belonging?
Houses in Australia have changed and evolved over time, even though its non-indigenous history is so short. “Better” equated with “bigger” as people climbed the property ladder and now what was viewed as the pinnacle not so long ago is now the starter home, and the popularity of home renovation shows show no sign of waning. Among the NLA’s collection are prints, photographs, paintings and a host of other ephemera that explores those changes as we seeks to satisfy that basic need for shelter, and this book is the perfect starting place to explore society’s concept of what a home is – and whether the structure really alters the basic premise that Digby concluded.
Teachers’ notes are available.