I bought a thing into the house the other day. It was big and blue. In Australia, we call it an esky. Here in England it’s known as a coolbox. The big blue thing was just about the right size for two toddlers. So in they got. It was a boat. It was a train. It was the source of arguments. A few days later I lifted the lid and all of their toys were inside. A few days after that… all of the stones from the driveway. You get the drift. It was big. It was blue. It was a weird new thing. The kids didn’t care that it was an esky. To them it had no name. It was their thing and from now on everything revolved around it.
The blue esky sort of reminded me of Simon Puttock and Daniel Egneus’ picture book, ‘The Thing’. And I’m certain neither Simon nor Daniel would mind me saying that this book is quite strange. Intriguing, but strange nonetheless. And that’s the point. The very fact I’ve been contemplating it for weeks means ‘The Thing’ has achieved exactly what it set out to do; to make curious little minds (and big ones) THINK.
One day four strangers come across the Thing. (It looks like a weird cross between the robot space ship thingy out of Star Wars and the Eden Project). “What is it?” “What does it do?” “Maybe it just is”. Worried that it might be lonely, the four-some decide to lie down next to the Thing to keep it company. They chat with it, build it a shelter and soon…
“People began to come from far and wide to see the Thing that lay where it was, not moving at all, not making a sound.”
The Thing becomes a huge crowd-pleaser by doing absolutely nothing. Its notoriety spreads and soon a funfair pops up and a camera so that people can watch it from the comfort of their homes. Of course there are people who find the Thing “worrisome or possibly even dangerous. They say it doesn’t belong and it has to go”. And so it does.
The Thing proffers an intriguing social commentary into the way people respond when something different unexpectedly turns up. It touches on how such a thing can connect strangers and bring out the best in them, while the same thing can ignite fear and aggression in others. We’re reading about the Thing, but I daresay if you wanted, you could be reading about refugees in a boat. And of course there’s the allegory into the way mankind just loves to commercialise even the most nonsensical things. I give you Madame Tussauds?!
And just like my kids and the blue esky… who knows what it was. It came, it went and for a while there, it changed their lives. You’ll have to read ‘The Thing’ and make up your own mind. I’ve no doubt that just like it did for me, ‘The Thing’ will have your mind ticking over long after you put it down.