Jigsaw: a puzzle in the post by Bob Graham

cover image

The Kelly family on the front cover is opening a large parcel. Mum, Kitty and their dog are all intrigued, as is the reader. The parcel is covered with stamps and an anonymous note inside wishes them luck. Dad and the girls unpack the jigsaw revealing the pieces for an African sunrise and they set to it. Dad sets his watch for late Autumn and they complete the edges by Winter. The girls play outside in Spring and Summer, while Dad works on. With Autumn coming closer they sort out all the colours, but they realise that the hippo’s shorts are missing. The missing jigsaw piece becomes a quest as they rack their brains for what may have happened to it. Mum recalls a piece that may have fallen to the floor and may have been swept into the bin. So the family goes to the rubbish centre. Here they are faced with a mountain of paper rubbish: old letters, notes, photographs and shopping lists to train tickets and newspapers from long ago. Every now and again a breeze lifts them all from the ground and settles them back down again, making their task even harder. The task seems overwhelming. They sadly go back home  their hopes faded, where the missing piece falls from Dad’s shoe. The jigsaw is finished. Has it been luck or determination that has found the missing piece? Whatever has happened, the sun now comes up ‘out of Africa';. Kitty decides to write a thank you letter to the unknown sender and another problem needs to be solved by the family.

This book radiates love and family, hope and determination which will warm the hearts of younger readers who will view their own families with the same care and attention.

Graham infuses his characters with a universal humanity. Mum, Dad, the children and the dog could be any of us. His families are always inspiring as they work together on a problem, promoting hope, radiating love and a togetherness we all aspire to emulate.

His distinctive pen and watercolour illustrations create a world we look into, looking from above or below, each piece of the picture has a meaning and resonance with the readers, eager for the details shown on each page. Sometimes the page has a simple drawing on it, with no words or detail, sometimes an image covers both pages, sometimes there are several panels, but whatever the page offers, it is worth a second look and often readers will ask questions. How many teachers or parents will need to discuss a jigsaw, or postage or stamps or writing a letter, a post box, or recycling? Issues rise out of his work with a quiet insistence, the background to his stories often promising discussions on a different level. Activities are available in Walker Books Storytime kit.

Themes: Family, Determination, Love, Jigsaw puzzles, Recycling.

Fran Knight