Tohby Riddle and his guardian angels

Tohby Riddle, Unforgotten

Published by Allen & Unwin, 2012, 128p


I consider myself so lucky every time I discover a book that makes my heart beating fast when I start turning the pages. At my last visit to the library I discovered Tohby Riddle, an Australian cartoonist and picture books author living in Sydney. On his website he declares that if you believe in something and stick to it for a long time, decades he says, you can turn it into an overnight success; I find people believing in their dreams so inspiring.

Unforgotten is a surrealistic poem, a book where images replace words. At first sight it might seem strange, even shocking but it is a tender, symbolical testament about love, friendship, life, death and modern society. The dark images force the readers to dig in their subconscious and reveal meanings.

As I said, the text is a simple, lovely poem but it is the images that seem to defy logic and slow the reader. There are so many elements and symbols on each page that the reader is easily sent into a fantasy world governed by abstract ideas. The book is about guardian angels.

Nobody knows

where they come from.

But they come.

Impossible birds

of the big sky


Unseen angels looking like children come on Earth to watch over, warm and mend, it is said in the first part of the book. But their healing work is sometimes overwhelming so in the second part we see a falling angel projected on the red fiery sky. Weakened it falls on the ground and looks for a place to rest, risking becoming stony. It is only when staying still like a statue, almost dead that people notice the angel. There is still hope and in the last part of the poem the fallen angel is rescued by a symbolic group including children, a donkey, a dog and a clown. It is the angel’s turn to be watched over, warmed and mended. The last pages illustrate a smiling angel flying ascendingly, a movement that translates a symbolic definition of life and hope.

More than an illustrated book, Unforgotten is an experience. Like through the lenses of an old camera we see urban landscapes, skyscrapers, bus stops and subway stations, cars from old ages and blimps. The real life pictures blend with drawings creating a silent atmosphere. People have statue-like faces and we see them moving absent in this metropolitan context, so self-absorbed that they cannot notice the angels. It is the angels that have more humanity than the humans.

It is definitely a book to be read more than one time as it leaves room for so many interpretations and every reading brings to surface new details. The conclusions are yours to draw.

You can find the book here:


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