This book has been shortlisted for its illustrations, in the New Illustrator’s category. The illustrations are critical to this story. What a wonderful book!
This story is partly autobiographical. Danny Parker has drawn on his personal experience as a child and written a story of hope and acceptance, coming out of a family break-up. The illustrations and the text work well together in the telling of this story.
When Paperboy and his parents move into a new house, he is sad when he notices that not all of the boxes have been unpacked, and some of their precious items (like the family photo) have cracks in them. The cracks run deeper...into their family relationship.
The turning point in this story is the heart wrenching text “Tissues are good for tears and spills and mopping things up but they are not strong enough for repairs”. They cannot repair the rift between his parents. In the illustrations, you can almost see the shape of two people arguing.
Paperboy knows he has to try to move on with the changes to his family, to find hope and happiness again. He says: “It’s like a patchwork puzzle. First you have to find the pieces, and then you keep going because there’s always more to find.” Paperboy begins to piece his new life together, and there is hope and acceptance.
Bethany Madconald has used collages of different types of paper to illustrate various emotions. For example, the glass heart the young boy is packing on the first page, is being wrapped in tissue paper...which is very fragile and tears so easily.
Bethany Macdonald says that the role and the value of paper was crucial to creating her illustrations. Bethany used lots of fragile tissue paper where Paperboy was feeling vulnerable and fragile, but then she used more sturdier paper when Paperboy was feeling stronger and more hopeful. Besides tissue paper, she also used fly paper, and crepe paper and of course cardboard boxes for moving.
Bethany loved using collage as she believes it adds texture and a three-dimensional look. Creating collage also enabled her to scrunch, fold, tear and manipulate the paper in other ways to enhance the emotion in each illustration.
On other techniques Bethany used to create texture and depth, Bethany says:
“One technique I used was cutting the actual illustration into shapes that enhance the meaning of the illustration. Each illustration was not necessarily rectangular or square. For example, for the final image of Paperboy’s house the illustration was actually cut into the shape of a house.
I also used paint and crayon to create texture like the tiled floor around the pool. I cut each tile out from hand painted paper then ‘laid’ the tiles with glue. I then ‘grouted’ the tiles with crayon.
Layering was also important to create depth in each work. I sometimes used many layers of coloured paper, then tissue paper glued on top etc. to create depth.”
To represent the cracks in the family’s possessions (and the cracks in the family themselves), Bethany tore the paper she was using, and then glued them back on the page.
Also notice how Bethany illustrates the beginning of the book with less colour when Paperboy is feeling fragile, and then an increase in colour towards the end of the story, when he is feeling more hopeful.
Notice that Paperboy’s clothes and some of the other illustrations have been created using typewritten font. Bethany says this font is actually the text of the book itself, that she typed over and over for the purpose of using it in the collage process. Bethany says “I wanted Paperboy to be wrapped in his own story”.
Bethany Macdonald is also an artist and runs a children’s book shop with her husband in Glebe.
Danny parker has written a number of children’s picture books, including “Parachute” shortlisted in 2014 for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year and “Perfect”.
In Paperboy, he wanted to represent those children whose parents do not reconcile, like his own, and that it’s ok to feel sad and vulnerable. Things will get brighter.