Author: Sophie Masson
Illustrator: Lorena Carrington
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing
Publication date: March 2023
Teacher Notes: Available on the MidnightSun Publishing website here
Satin by Sophie Masson, illustrated by Lorena Carrington and published by MidnightSun publishing is highly intriguing, meaningful, sophisticated and a remarkably unique picture book for upper primary school students. It is imbued with layers of meaning, symbolism and glorious use of colour, mostly blue, with colour being introduced later in the story, together with silhouettes, to represent and contrast dark and light, representing happy and sad, as well as reflect the protagonist’s personal journey. This story was inspired by an unexpected moment, when the author was a passenger on a long drive and spotted a male satin bower bird. The questions that arose in her mind about this bird were the impetus for this story. Themes included in this book relate to loneliness, longing, beauty in the unexpected, the power of giving and connection.
This story begins with a solitary silhouette figure, referred to as Satin, a male, with what appears to be wings adding to the mystery. Before the community rises, in the early hours of the morning, Satin leaves the forest and looks for blue. Immediately, questions arise. Why is Satin in the forest? Why does he have wings? What exactly is he looking for? Blue buildings, blue objects, blue in nature? Why is he focussed on blue? The double page spread is arresting, on the left where Satin has come from, a dark forest and on the right, the setting for where he is going under the light of a full bright moon. The astute reader may spy a clue, a piece of blue.
Satin procures fragments of broken blue china that he sources from many different places – in nature, near shops and in unexpected locations. He places all this blue treasure into his cloak pockets and then returns to his home, the forest. Here, he finds happiness in using the blue pieces to create something beautiful.
A feeling washes over Satin, he feels something is missing, but he has no clarity as to what this could be. The answer comes to him in the most touching, surprising and beautiful way. It is in stepping outside of the routine, changing habits, having courage and seeing a situation with a fresh, new perspective that can be life changing. This is true for Satin, a once solitary figure, avoiding people, now secretly gifts his blue treasure. It is the final blue treasure he gifts that brings the most unexpected and heart touching surprise. This gives him the missing piece he has been longing for.
The atmospheric illustrations reflect Satin’s emotional journey, they initially are mostly blue, reminiscent of the idiom, feeling blue. Colour is employed when Satin shares his treasure and more white space is employed which is in stark contrast to the earlier darker pages, adding to the sense of freedom Satin experiences at the end of the story and the transformative journey he experiences.
Satin shares many traits with the satin bower bird, they both are solitary and the satin bower bird collects blue pieces in an effort to find a compatible partner. Interestingly, it is through his blue treasure that Satin forms a connection with a woman. Birds feature throughout the book and the final glorious page, full of birds all flying in one direction over colourful (not blue) pieces of broken china evokes such a sense of freedom and togetherness, a moving and powerful final page to conclude Satin’s journey.