This picture book in simple rhyme recounts a day in the life of a young Pacific Island schoolboy, from the moment he wakes until night falls.
I was immediately struck by this picture book with its beautiful, bold illustrations. One Day takes the form of a poem written in simple rhyming couplets, with two couplets printed in large black font on each double spread. The poem opens with ‘One cloud, one sun/One day has begun’ and follows the same format to the final page. Author Ruth Toumu’a uses basic vocabulary with a focus on familiar objects (chair, bag, bell, ball, bath, story, moon) as we run through a young schoolboy’s day. Although the metre varies, the story reads smoothly, and the rhymes within each couplet are spot on. Visual clues in the illustrations make each page easy to follow – for both very young children and beginning readers. In the opening double spread, for example, a cloud and the sun (‘One cloud, one sun’) are clearly visible in the sky, and it’s obvious that the young boy kneeling on his bed has just got up for the day!
There are no specific references to Tonga or the Pacific Islands in the text. Taken alone, the words could recount a young schoolchild’s day in a variety of global locations. It is the vibrant illustrations that help to set the story in context: the palm trees and lush vegetation, the bright light, the bold palette, the appearance of the schoolboy and his father, the little ocean-front home with its verandah. Each page is a joyous riot of colour: bright yellow, blue and green tones dominate the spreads with pops of red and orange throughout. At first glance, Lu’isa Veakovi Fonua Nau’s illustrative style is almost childlike, with clean black outlines filled in with blocks of colour. But look more closely and take in that perspective! The ocean stretches right to the horizon – we can almost step into her artwork. Characters are lovingly depicted; I particularly like the spread where the young schoolboy kicks a ball around with a friend. There is such focus and enjoyment on his face, and movement through his body.
Although this picture book is relatively short at 16 pages, a wealth of notes is provided for parents, caregivers and teachers at the end. These include information about the value of books written in rhyme, and ideas for engaging with the story before, during and after reading.
One Day is a simply lovely picture book, either as a bedtime story for young children or as an early reader at primary school. Infused with the colour of the Pacific Islands, the title holds real meaning for the children of the Pacific, but the universality of the theme – and visual insights into another setting – make it a wonderful read for children elsewhere, too.
One Day by Ruth Toumu’a, illustrated by Lu’isa Veakovi Fonua Nau (Waka Story Books, Institute of Education, The University of the South Pacific, 2016)
Dr Ruth Toumu’a is a Fellow in Curriculum and Literacy at the Institute of Education, The University of the South Pacific (Tonga campus). She is actively involved in revitalising the Institute’s Waka Story Book collection, which has a continuing focus on culturally and linguistically relevant books for the Pacific.
Lu’isa Veakovi Fonua Nau is a Tongan-based artist. As well as illustrating children’s books, she also works in the traditional art of Tongan Ngatu (painted tapa cloth). An exhibition of her work was recently held in Auckland, New Zealand.