32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Suri lived a lonely life. As if being isolated from the outside world in a citadel with a high wall and a guard on the gate wasn’t enough, being much taller than the other children has made them suspicious of her and she is shunned by them. She is so tall that she even has dinner at a special table and sleeps in a special bed. Her heart aches for their company but instead she has only the wall with its stones and mortar which gave her warmth when she touched them. She even loved the iron gate!
Every month Suri measured herself against the wall until one day she discovered she was taller than it! She could see over the top! Not only that, she feels a tugging on her hand and as the feeling spread through her body, she discovers one of the children holding her hand begging her to tell her what she can see over the wall.
*Can you see, Suri? Are you tall enough?”
“Yes, Eva, I can.”
“What’s there? What can you see?”
”What can I see?” Suri looked out over the wall. “Oh, it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.”
As she tells the children of the beautiful sights she can see, they are entranced by her words. Suddenly, the walls in Suri’s life are destroyed and at long last she is one of the children. They were no longer afraid of her and she was no longer lonely. And so the days go on and on and Suri entrances the children with stories of what she can see.
But what Suri sees and what she tells the children are two different things… and even though she knows that they will find out that it’s not the rosy, dream-filled picture she has described, it will not be today that they discover the reality. Despite the war-torn town below, Suri tells the children what she knows they want to hear not what she can see. Not only does it keep their spirits up, but ensures their friendship for a little longr.
Accompanied by stunning exquisite illustrations that capture Suri’s imagination, the mood and atmosphere perfectly, this is a most sensitive story about being different and being lonely. Within the wall, the palette is muted, almost gloomy but Suri’s visions are a riot of colour and joy. We don’t learn why the children are kept behind the wall but there are suggestions of children in detention centres in Australia peeking through, isolated through no fault of their own and desperately wondering what life is like on the other side of the fences that keep them confined. But throughout there is a thread of hope, that the innate goodness of the human spirit will prevail as the children get to keep their innocence for a little longer.
This is a picture book for older children rather than the very young because those with a little more experience will appreciate the underlying story better, perhaps even understand that physical walls are not the only things that imprison us. Just being different can be isolating in itself and hopefully something will crack the wall and open the heart.