Thursday, November 03, 2016

Reader's Diary #1407- Evie Wyld, illustrated by Joe Sumner: Everything is Teeth

In Everything is Teeth, Evie Wyld recounts her childhood memories of Australia and in particular a growing obsession with sharks. At the surface, this is a simply told story with (mostly) simple illustrations. But underneath the surface is so much more.

Even now, after I've had some time to process it, I'm left wondering if the shark was a symbol to represent all of Evie's fears or a distraction, a diversion created to avoid focusing on more serious issues (like her brother being bullied). Could it even be both a symbol and a diversion at once?

By no means is this a criticism. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I enjoy books that are so much more than they first appear, ones that have an unexpected bounty of meat on their bones.

The same compliment can be said for Sumner's illustrations. The majority of scenes involving Evie as a young girl are very cartoony and because of that, when Sumner veers off this style, things get very interesting. Why are the characters in the Jaws movie drawn so much more realistic? And while everything else is black and white with a yellowed-sepia tone, bloody reds almost shock the system. Is it a way of suggesting that fears are very real?

On that note, one of my favourite (and for me, one of the most powerful) scenes in the book involves Evie and her father going to a shark exhibit. They watch a video in which the narrator seems to take delight in cutting open sharks while trying his best to convince the audience of the shark's evil murderous tendencies. At the end of the exhibit, the main attraction "Conan the Shark," is poorly preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, his jaws pulled open to reveal the razor sharp teeth. Despite fearing sharks, Evie seems to find the whole thing depressing.

Here, I feel, she is on the verge of a rather adult notion that some of those supposedly negative emotions, such as fear, are healthy and meant to be respected, not shunned or whatever the hell that was with Vic Hislop, the mustachioed man from the video who laughs while revealing the contents of a shark stomach that he has just gutted.

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