Title: Somewhere Else
Author/Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Publisher: Penguin Random House
RRP: $24.99

George Laurent’s friends always ask him to join them to go ‘somewhere else’ but he is always too busy cooking or ironing, or doing something. As George the duck stays home, his friends fly away. When his only remaining friend Pascal Lombard comes looking for a warm place to spend winter, we discover the cause of George’s reluctance to leave home. Pascal Lombard’s attempts are not as successful as anticipated, but with persistence and time, they are overcome.

Gus Gordon uses a mix of illustrative styles and techniques in the visual telling of this story. These contribute to the mood and setting beautifully. For example, when George confesses why he cannot go Somewhere Else with his friends, we see him, outlined only in blue, positioned in the middle of a white page. There are a few logs at George’s feet and he has a black and white striped cap on his head. The page is colourless and George looks very forlorn. A small blue plant in the bottom right hand corner (stem with two leaves) leans towards the right hand page, leading the viewer’s eye to continue reading.

The styles vary throughout the picture book. Gordon uses vintage posters and printed publications, such as advertisements, pictures and postcards. Some are in sections, purposefully clipped and positioned, some with drawings added to them. There is also an 1883 Parisian poster reproduced in its entirety. All of these add to the visual storytelling.

Texture is another picture book code that has been used to effect. The mixed media and collage items add variety throughout and contribute to the non-traditional aspects of the illustrations. Some have been enlarged so the pixels are deliberately evident. The variety throughout makes sure the viewer is surprised at every page turn and wanting to return to read again in case something has been missed.

This is a lovely story of friendship and how the confessing of one’s inadequacies can in fact help, as others may have other possible solutions. Just because ducks are supposed to do something, does not mean they all can. Persistence is another theme in this thoroughly entertaining and touching picture book.

For a look inside check out this YouTube clip.

Possible activities and discussion starters:

  • Gus Gordon uses various collage techniques with old printed and illustrated items. Collect a number of magazines and newspapers from time periods and make a collage poster or story.
  • Page 22 has a reproduction of a vintage poster of a hot air balloon. Research the history of the invention and development of the hot air balloon.
  • Have the students design a flying method or machine.
  • Research posters from a designated era and design a poster for their product.
  • Research migratory animals. Where do they go? Why do they migrate? Do all animals migrate? Where do the others go?
  • During reading look for and list all animals. Group them into migratory and non-migratory animals and birds with George Laurent and Pascal Lombard heading the two groups.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for supplying this book for review.