Saturday, July 2, 2016

No Such Thing as Far Away by Laura Langston and Robert Amos

This  Canadian picture book explores a child's attachment to place and could quite easily be set in any major Australian city with a China Town. It is in fact set in Vancouver's Chinatown which I had the pleasure of exploring some years ago. Michael loves his Chinatown home, its smells, its interesting alley ways, and the dragons from the nearby neon sings which cast their golden and red images through his bedroom window upon his wall during the night. He is very upset when he hears from his mum who runs a second hand shop of their impending move to another suburb. Michael's acceptance of the situation comes largely through the counsel of his Chinese friend, Grandpa Doc. 

In summer Michael would go into the little store where Grandpa Doc straightened his jars of herbs and boxes of powders. Michael would sit on a high stool and sniff the air. The smells of star anise, ginger and sweet licorice mingled with the conversation as Grandpa Doc talked about the old country. Once Michael asked Grandpa Doc how he could be happy when he was so far away from the China that he loved.

"There's no such thing as far away when you carry a place in your heart," Grandpa Doc said, laughing at Michael's frown. "In here." The old man lifted both hands to his heart.
 who tells him, "There is no such thing as far away when you carry a place with you. In here." (Your heart.) 

Robert Amos, a water-colour artist, well-known for his depictions of inner city streets, captures the detail and colour of the scenes in Chinatown beautifully. 

The result is a well-written appreciation of Chinatown and a satisfying, reassuring look at the heartache of leaving a loved places and loved ones.

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