This picture book by Swiss artist and illustrator Armin Greder (1971 – ) explores violence of a xenophobic nature. The book was first published in Australia and has been described as belonging to ‘a larger group of picture books published in Australia between 2003 and 2008 that represent the arrival and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers’ (Dudek 16). An unnamed man arrives on an island, his vulnerability emphasised in his nakedness and smallness of stature. At first, the islanders grudgingly agree to take him in, not wanting his death on their conscience. However, they later push him out to sea when he becomes the centre of their projections of fear. The Island offers a bleak view of an island society from the opening pages. The first opening is a large white expanse of page with four lines of text, a small illustration of the raft the man arrived on and an illustration of the man who commands a small section of the page’s white space. The text provides little information about the reason for his arrival, simply noting ‘fate and ocean currents had washed his raft ashore’. The man’s supposed difference is heavily emphasised from the outset, and the island society’s projections soon make him into a dark and savage being. However, in the panels that explain the transformation of the man in the eyes of the islanders, it is the islanders’ actions that loom monstrously. Fear around the stranger is built through successive panels, each with little connection, yet the combination of these allow the islanders to arrive at specific conclusions about the stranger. Once the stranger is expelled, the people’s decision to not let anyone on the island again is symbolised by the fortress which looms high above the sea. The island people’s folly is also underlined as they ‘never again wanted to eat fish from this sea that had brought them the stranger’ and they ‘shoot down passing seagulls and cormorants so that no one would ever find their island again’. The final page opening shows the same image of the dark sea and sky that accompanied the man’s arrival. Here, the fisherman’s boat, which has been set alight in punishment for wanting to help the stranger, blazes in a vast, almost undifferentiated scene.
First published 2002
Place of Publication:
Crows Nest, New South Wales
Allen and Unwin
Date of Publication:
p. : ill.
Island, Form, Xenophobia, Otherness
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE