The Fate of Fausto: A Painted Fable
96pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.
Claiming a flower, a sheep and a tree with relative ease he meets opposition from first the lake, and then the mountain but shaking his fist, stamping his foot and shouting brings them into line and they too, finally bow before him. But still unsatisfied with those possessions and his seemingly invincible power, he commands a boat and sails out to sea, determined to conquer that too. But the sea has other ideas…
Using traditional lithography and deceptively simple text, this is one of those books that those who adhere to reading levels would classify as juvenile fiction suitable for 4-8 year-olds, and perhaps on the surface, that’s what it would seem to be. Younger readers might say it is about being friendly, more co-operative and not being bossy because no one will like you.
But to really appreciate what Jeffers is saying, particularly in light of the explanation of its dedication, readers need to have a much deeper knowledge of human behaviour, of the drive of an individual’s ego and its need to be fed often by power and greed; of the transient nature of human life against the backdrop of Mother Nature; and a realisation that who we are as individual, compassionate beings is enough. Even the choice of the protagonist’s name is significant, presumably referring to Faust who, in the German legend, is highly successful but still dissatisfied with his life, leading him to make a pact with the Devil exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. In addition, the subtitle A Painted Fable suggests that there is more to this story than meets the eye, opening up discussions that are likely to run deep.
If ever there were a “poster-child” for picture books being for all ages, this would be it. Jeffers is a genius.