Mo and Crow, by Jo Kasch and Jonathan Bentley
This is one of those beautifully heart-warming picture books where the words and the illustrations work together in perfect harmony, the images enhancing and building upon the gentle whimsical flow of the narrative.
We get a strong sense of Mo from the very first page - both from the depiction of the solitary figure in his enclosed landscape and the simple line of text: "Mo lived alone and he liked it that way."
Into his secluded world comes Crow - quietly persistent as he taps and pushes through Mo's stone wall - a gently effective allegory for the way in which Crow begins to erode Mo's defences. Despite his initial gruff resistance, Mo comes to realise that maybe having a new friend is not such a bad thing.
Young readers will delight in the playful flow of the narrative and use of rhyme and rhythm, and will no doubt enjoy joining in as Mo yells, 'Go crow!' Children love repetition and a growing sense of anticipation, and may enjoy predicting what might happen next as Mo goes to bed and then wakes up to find Crow is not there.
The illustrations are full of an earthy warmth and humour, with flowing lines and swirls of colour depicting movement. Crow is presented as an endearing character with his curious friendly expressions as he patiently regards Mo. As the wall crumbles and Mo ventures out in search of crow, the illustrations show the light-filled world beyond the wall, illuminating the enduring power of friendship, and learning to view the world in a new way.
Do take a moment to admire the endpapers (I adore endpapers) - the earthy texture of the stone wall at the front of the book giving way to swirls of blue sky and cloud on the back endpapers- symbolising the way in which Mo has ventured out from behind his stone wall (both physical and metaphorical) in search of light and friendship.
Mo and Crow is one of those layered narratives which may mean different things to different people - depending on the readers level of understanding - which of course is one of the qualities of a great story. This picture book could be used as a platform to initiate discussion around issues such as social isolation and mental health (particularly relevant in our post-COVID world), inclusivity, the value of offering friendship and looking out for others, breaking down barriers between different cultures, and trust.
I love a picture book that relays an important message without being didactic, and this is one of those books, which through its beautifully rendered illustrations and thoughtful text delivers a powerful yet gentle story of friendship and kindness.
This carefully crafted picture book is a work of art and is highly recommended for your home or school library.
Published by Allen & Unwin