Book cover for Chalk Boy

Chalk Boy written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Mandy Ord

Margaret Wild has done it again! The prolific children’s author has produced yet another charming, heart-felt picture book that has made it to the Shortlist of the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Picture Book of the Year.  Chalk Boy is the story of a pavement artist’s drawing of a boy that comes to life. 

Barnaby is a pavement artist. This morning he started drawing me.

 I have a head that can think, eyes that can see, ears that can hear and legs that can run.

 Best of all, I have a heart that can feel.

Thank you, Barnaby.

Chalk Boy is a pavement drawing who understands that life is ephemeral and that he has to make the most of every moment that he has.  In his short life he manages to read, sail, juggle and enjoy himself to the full. 

Then it starts to rain…

Chalk Boy realises that his time is nearly up and that he really doesn’t want to be washed away.  This picture book has a heart-warming ending that encourages the reader to feel hope after being taken through Chalk Boy’s despair, yet it steadfastly refuses to come to an absolute conclusion.

This book covers a multitude of themes and offers a different experience for each reader.  A younger reader may recognise the messages of friendship and compassion, whilst an older reader might be left reflecting on the fleetingness of life. 

Chalk Boy is an amazingly collaborative work with the illustrator, Mandy Ord, giving the reader a gateway into the streets and characters of Melbourne.  Chalk Boy is presented as a simple, light coloured outline representing the simplicity of his life and desires.  This is in stark contrast to the vivid way in which Ord presents the remainder of the book.  Barnaby and the other characters are represented with inky black lines and water colours that evoke the ambience of a cold Melbourne street.  All the characters of Melbourne are represented, with coffee swilling hipsters, uniformed school children and tourists amongst the diversity embodied in this amazing picture book.

”I think this is a book for older children, perhaps middle to upper primary.  It lends itself to discussing the transience of life for everyone, human and animal.  And, hopefully it will encourage children to make their own artworks in chalk.”    Margaret Wild

This book really does have a message for everyone and I believe that families will enjoy reading and reflecting upon the messages of this book together.