cicada: tok, tok, tok!

Like a Kafka tale for kindergarten kids, CICADA is another exquisite triumph of picture book art, craft, empathy and imagination from Shaun Tan.

CICADA tells the story of the eponymous Cicada, a data entry clerk who has toiled for seventeen years without a break and never a mistake.

His reward, utter negligence, no recognition, no promotion, no thanks.

Human resources say Cicada not human. Need no resources.

Entomological apartheid bars him from use of the corporate comfort station so toilet break docks pay for travel time to pee.

Man’s inhumanity to the other, be it be to beetles or any other living thing is poignantly illustrated in CICADA. Corporate greed, socio-economic elitism, workplace bullying are all under the unflinching eye of Shaun Tan.

Winner of the Dromkeen Medal for services to children’s literature and the Astrid Lindgren prize, the world’s riches literature award, Shaun Tan continues to create evocative and provocative picture books that pique the imagination and consciences of kids and adults alike.

In CICADA, the words are presented as quatrains, a hybrid haiku, with the constant refrain of Tok Tok Tok! Indeed, there is a Basho poem quoted in the end papers:

Calm and serene
the sound of a cicada
penetrates the rock.

The illustrations are sublime, in detail, composition and texture, making CICADA an illustrated appreciation of the under appreciated, a book to be appreciated and cherished.

A must for any child’s library, CICADA transcends category and deserves a place in any library where the social, political and the surreal are celebrated.

CICADA by Shaun Tan is published by Lothian.