Through the Gate
EK Books, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
As she looks through the gate of her new house, the little girl is feeling really despondent because it is anything but new. All she could see were the drooping roof, the peeling paint, and the crumbling steps. As she sits on the step pondering all the changes of a new house, a new town and a new school she sees nothing bright in her future. But gradually, slowly, one step at a time things begin to change – and so does she.
This is a familiar story for many children who are uprooted from their comfort zone that has been told on so many different levels that it is quite brilliant.
Firstly there is the concept – as the house is slowly restored to something smart and vibrant so does her mood and her willingness to look beyond her untied shoelaces, gradually lifting her head to the possibility and potential that surrounds her. Then there is the text itself – carefully chosen vocabulary that reflects the girl’s moods, changing with each step forward that she takes in settling into her new environment. This is accompanied by illustrations that have an increasing use of colour and detail, climaxing in full-colour spreads as the future becomes clearer. And throughout, the changes are reflected in the life of the little bird that first appears on the front endpaper as a lonely soul with a forlorn twig and ends on the back endpaper showing all the riches of life.
This is a story about nothing staying the same; about even the most dismal day waking to a sunrise soon; about how our moods and feelings can colour our world; and cliches like “light at the end of the tunnel”; “some days are diamonds and some days are stones” and “without rain there can be no rainbows.” While younger readers may engage on a more superficial level at spotting the changes to the house and the bird’s business, older readers may be able to dig deeper and look at the more philosophical ideas that underpin the story as well as learning about looking for the positive, managing emotions and expectations, and developing strategies that will help them deal with new, tough or confusing situations, physical or emotional. Some might even like to share such occasions and how they coped perhaps sending a message to other classmates that they are not alone and not on their own.
Change can be challenging but time can take care of things.
Extensive teaching notes are available.