Inside the CBCA Shortlist
Girl on Wire (Penguin Random House) is a highly metaphorical picture book, for older children, where a wire resembles a tightrope. It is a stunning work painted in oils, and the book cover resembles a painting canvas.
In the story an unnamed girl seems to be in a difficult or even threatening situation. She is anxious and fearful. Or, at the very least, she is simply avoiding a task or something she must do. She must take the first step, then continue along to move forward, change and grow.
Where is the girl? What could the wire or tightrope represent? What is hindering and helping her? How does she find courage?
The outstanding illustrations create changing perspectives and atmospheres. Consider how light and shadows are used, how movement is shown, and which part of the girl is focussed on at different times [e.g. feet, back view, from a distance, close-up].
Lucy Estela’s website is http://lucyestela.com/
Elise Hurst’s website is https://elisehurst.com/
Using the book with children:
Idiom What is another meaning of walking a tightrope? [a careful balancing act of thinking or acting when between difficult, changing or dangerous situations]
Motifs Birds and feathers aren’t mentioned in the written text but they are used as motifs in the story. Follow the birds and feathers in the illustrations. Examine how close and far they are from the girl. What is their role?
Read other books by Elise Hurst such as Imagine a City, Adelaide’s Secret World and The Night Garden; and Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela, illustrated by Matt Ottley.
Balancing With safe monitoring, children could try balancing on something quite low to the ground (or on the ground) or walking along a balance beam (which could be a plank of wood) or low slackline. They could walk forwards and backwards; over obstacles e.g. beanbags; or through obstacles e.g. hoop. They could begin by looking at their feet and then look at someone in front of them as the girl does in the book. Is it easier to look down or at someone?
Tightrope Cartoons Children could use the online tool Toony Tools to make a cartoon of a character walking a tightrope https://www.toonytool.com/.
Tightrope Song Older children could listen to the song Tightrope, written by Pasek and Paul, sung by Michelle Williams, from The Greatest Showman movie. How do the lyrics relate to the picture book Girl on Wire?