Book Review, Uncategorized

BOOK REVIEW: The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers

Short Review

Oliver Jeffers is at it again and this time he is using traditional lithography with a masters touch – a technique which sings from the pages of The Fate of Fausto. Not only does Jeffers create another classic story, he’s able to conjure a modern day fable that is more simplistic than his usual storytelling, but having said that, Jeffers has created something quite beautiful, poignant and unique. A must for Jeffers fans!

Longer Review

The Fate of Fausto is breathtakingly simplistic in its approach, illustrations and storytelling; and it’s this simplicity quality which enables the story, the fable aspect of Jeffers work, to touch the hearts and minds of its readers – no matter what age you are, you’ll find something to love about this story. It’s a book which enables each reader or listener to come away with their own message, each person taking away key elements of Jeffers’ fable – which is magical to watch and shows the undeniable talent he wields as a storyteller. I read the story to my wife, and two children (aged eight and four) and all of us came away with a different message from The Fate of Fausto.

It’s Oliver Jeffers, so we know that the illustrations are going to be gorgeous and he doesn’t disappoint, with a muted palette, Jeffers’ artwork is spectacular, each deftly crafted illustration seems to drip from the page with all the magical brilliance we’ve come to know and most of us expect from his various works. Although there are a lot of blank spaces on the page, this bleakness on the page helps to tighten the experience for the reader, with the rare splashes of colour and intricate details pop out from the book.

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It’s also a book which I feel reluctant readers would also enjoy, as well as younger readers – the font is large and accessible. Whilst not being an overly wordy book, it’s a book whose story is powerful, and the prose a delight, it seems to fall off the tongue with a musicality that enraptures the reader and beguiles the listener.

The Fate of Fausto is an endearing tale which keeps on giving long after the story has finished, with my daughters discussing the themes and the message behind the book long into the evening. Its message, at its core, is that you should be grateful and contented with what you have – it is enough, you are enough. But my daughters outlook on the story was completely different, they said that it was about relationships and not telling people that they have to belong to you, or play with you, or be with you – Fausto should have been more kind, more honest and friendly with those he met, instead of forcing his views on others.

The Fate of Fausto is magic, a warming tonic to the soul. A book that is as beautifully crafted as the message that it contains…a must read!

The Fate of Fausto is published by HarperCollinsChildren’s and is available here.

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Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers was born in Port Hedland, Western Australia in 1977 and bred in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

As a teenager, he thoroughly enjoyed playing the spoons and travelled the land frequenting every pub he could find looking for a group of musicians to harmoniously add his percussive talents to. Unfortunately, no-one recognised his musical talent, so to force some other way of fitting in, Oliver painted them instead. It was when he came runner-up in The Irish News amateur art competition in 1995 that he seriously considered painting as a direction in which to take his life. It was a good decision, as since then Oliver has travelled the globe extensively, exhibiting his work in New York, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Belfast and Glengormley.

He made his name as a young contemporary artist with several small exhibitions in Belfast between 1995 and 1998. At this time, Oliver also began illustrating book jackets for local publishing houses.

Whilst taking a break from university during 1999-2000, Oliver travelled across America and Australia, settling in Sydney for a period to work in freelance illustration and painting. In Australia, he illustrated for various magazines and got his first big break when Lavazza Coffee Company saw his offbeat coffee illustrations. They subsequently commissioned him to paint some pictures for their HQ and to illustrate their Christmas cards. They also featured him in a live exhibition during the Aroma coffee festival at The Rocks, Sydney, where he illustrated on site in front of thousands of people, using coffee rings and black ink.

Oliver returned from his travels in 2000 to finish his degree at the University of Ulster. He graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Illustration and Visual Communication. During his final year, he had a prominent exhibition of portraiture in the John Hewitt Bar, Belfast. The exhibition was entitled ‘Boys At The Bar’, and depicted the afternoon (and morning!) drinking culture of Belfast. It attracted a great deal of media attention and all 16 pieces sold on the opening night.

Oliver’s eye-catching style of artwork has taken him in many directions, including poster illustration, painting 10 commissioned artworks for a London bar and designing album covers. He paints in an impressive range of styles and sizes with a wide variety of media, and is currently experimenting by pushing the creative boundaries of picture books.

Oliver began writing and illustrating children’s stories when he realised that people didn’t believe what he did with his time. He has had a number of adventures that he has collected into his books for children; his debut picture book, ‘How to Catch a Star’, was inspired by a moment sitting on the end of a jetty in Sydney, looking at the stars. Not having an agent, Oliver sent his work unsolicited to HarperCollins Publishers. Its potential was immediately recognised, it was whisked off the slush pile and the publishing process began. In 2004, the book was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books and was also short listed for the Booktrust Early Years Award for Best New Illustrator. In 2005, ‘How to Catch a Star’ won a Merit Award at the CBI/Bisto Book of Year Awards.

After the international success of ‘How to Catch a Star’, Oliver went on to produce the breathtakingly beautiful follow-up, ‘Lost and Found’, which garnered fantastic sales and critical acclaim on publication and went on to win the Gold Award at Nestle Children’s Book Prize in 2005.

He continues to exhibit his art in major cities of the world and was recently commissioned to produce illustrations for Starbucks’ nation-wide in-store displays in the UK

Oliver loves plastic food, suitcase handles and Elvis, and has developed a bizarre habit of endlessly writing lists he never reads. He remains hell bent on travelling all over the world.

Author Web Site

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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