Margaret Wild, The Treasure Box. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Published by Penguin|Viking, 2013, 32 p
There are things that war cannot destroy. Humanity has always proved a huge power of rebirth after the unexpected and shattering consequences of tragedies. People use art as individual reaction to pain and loss.
Margaret Wild is an Australian children’s writer who mainly explores issues like death, identity, environment, loss and ethics. The Treasure Box is an inspiring story about post-war cultural and individual rebirth, a meaningful parable about identity, nationalism and survival.
When the enemy bombed the library, everything burned.
This is how the story begins, settling the library as the center of the universe, an axis mundi which once destroyed shatters the equilibrium in people’s lives. We see children and adults trying to catch pieces of paper and cup them in their hands.
Peter and his father take home the only book that survives the burning and put it in a small iron box.
This is a book about our people, about us, he said. It is rarer than rubies, more splendid than silver, greater than gold.
War forces the whole community to leave the city behind. Freya Blackwood’s artwork amazingly depicts people’s pain and the injustice of war. Peter learns to be brave and disciplined as he loses his father. In a time of tragedy he must understand the value of nationalism and take the book to a safe place. He buries the book under a linden tree and many years after, when he is a young man living in a new country, he returns to the place of his childhood, recovering the treasure. The library is rebuilt and he puts the book back on the shelf to be read and loved.
This is a story with immense emotional impact, an exploration on the effects of war on people’s consciousness and also a massive tribute paid to books which stand for hope and survival.
Complement the reading with this beautiful story on how we fall in love with books and how they speak about the values in our lives.