Are there too many things in your life? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by stuff? Be prepared to reassess the status quo with a smile on your face as Hayley Wells addresses over-consumption and corporate greed with insight, style and charm in this wryly-humorous allegory. A fairer world is possible, we just need curious little creatures to ask awkward questions.
On an island ruled by a huge monster, hundreds of dutiful inhabitants labour night and day to create more things for it to consume. New things, improved things, the latest, most fashionable must-have things: as fast as the little islanders produce the goods, the monster gobbles them up. It’s a never-ending job, but it has to be done, otherwise – to quote the measured and perceptive text – there would be consequences. And that’s enough to keep everyone in line, until one small and rather independent-minded islander starts asking questions. In a delightful spread highlighting their individuality, her co-workers attempt to answer them, but somehow nothing sounds quite right. So the small islander goes in search of knowledge, and it’s a search that takes her somewhere very scary – the monster’s tummy, where she discovers an amazing secret. The greedy giant is a machine!
The small islander attempts to deal with the monster from within, but it’s too much for her to handle. The monster goes on a rampage, eating everything in its path, including the other islanders. Happily, they’re expert mechanics, and once inside the beast they’re able to mount a joint re-programming campaign. Eventually the monster is tamed and the objects in its tummy are redistributed. The islanders are free to create a world that works for them – one in which everyone has time for the things that matter most in life, and the community centre is always open.
Despite its charm and gentle demeanour, Wells’ debut picturebook addresses serious issues in a way that may prompt some soul-searching, and makes an effective starting point for discussion and debate with older children as well as younger ones. Text and images work seamlessly to engage readers and promote insight and understanding, creating a lively, thought-provoking and visually exciting experience. Wells’ stylish three-tone prints evoke the golden age of children’s publishing, but layout and content are thoroughly modern, and visual and conceptual playfulness are evident throughout. Note what happens when the delete button is pressed, and keep your eyes open for the red-capped islander in the final scene. Despite being overthrown in the gentlest of revolutions, capitalism is making a quiet comeback!