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A Teaspoon of Light

By  Peter O’Connor &  Nisaluk Chantanakom

Reviewed by Sandhya Parappukkaran

A Teaspoon of Light is a stunningly beautiful picture book which stands out like a ray of sunshine on a dark day.  Peter O’Connor is the Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation at Auckland University. He is also a specialist on using the arts to bring social justice and healing in places such as prisons and psychiatric hospitals. The incredible artwork in the book is by debut picture book illustrator Nisaluk Chantanakom, a Thai-born Australian artist whose skills include landscape painting and graphic design.
Marley has a dream cloth. Marley’s cloth holds special scents, sounds and even the memory of touch from happier times. It give her strength to go on each day, until one day something changes, and the cloth is no longer sustaining her. Marley’s despair as she fails to hold onto her memories is overwhelming. But where her recollections abandon her, her friends do not. The perceptiveness of the children who surround her with their own precious scents, comforting sounds and reassuring hugs is the most heartwarming part of this book.
O’Connor’s text shines with evocative language and thought-provoking similes. Chantanakom’s artwork, which combines pencil, watercolour and digital edits, creates an amazing play of light and shadows on every spread, culminating in the most wonderful glow as the story reaches a satisfying end. As in all good picture books, the end papers give clues to the story within. Flip between front and back endpapers and see a cloudy mist of memories strengthen into more reassuring and solid recollections.
A Teaspoon of Light was inspired by the author’s work with children in schools after major earthquakes in Christchurch and Mexico City. The Teacher’s Notes offer a variety of learning activities where educators can explore themes of friendship, hope in difficult situations, empathy, emotions, collaboration and holding onto special memories. Best of all is the idea that you only need let in a teaspoon of light which will slowly, slowly light up your darkest days.
Dirt Lane Press 2024

Sandhya Parappukkaran is the author of Stay for Dinner which recently won the 2024 Multicultural NSW Award

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