Book reviews by kids, St Thomas' Primary School

Book review: Cicada

Cicada by Shaun TanREVIEWED BY ADITI, YEAR 6, WA

Cicada by Shaun Tan, Hachette Australia,
ISBN 9780734418630

Aditi reviewed her own copy of this book.

Cicada is a picture book written by Shaun Tan, an Australian author. It is not a very long book, and it has about 30 pages in it. I think the reason we chose this book to read in class is because it is both fanciful and realistic, and you can make connections to the reality that jumps up unexpectedly in our faces every day.

Cicada works in an office. The colours are bland and grey, similar to the other books Shaun Tan has written. The only colours are Cicada’s head and a small green leaf that Cicada eats in the office wall space. He’s isolated and is forced to be controlled by his boss. This setting is important because it shows how quiet and boring the workplace is for Cicada. But, at the end of the book, one page is drowned in vibrant colours to show the effervescence Cicada is feeling when he joins forces with his own kind. Cicada says, “can’t stop laughing.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan.)

The main character, who is also the protagonist, is Cicada. Cicada doesn’t have a name, and is constantly treated terribly by his work colleagues. For example, Cicada says “Human coworker no like Cicada. Say things, do things. Think Cicada stupid.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) Cicada does not have much self-confidence at the start of the book, and he is just submitting to the loneliness of the workplace. But at the end of the book he starts to gain the control and the courage to leave and escape to the colourful place on the last page, where he meets other cicadas and finally belongs.

The antagonist, on the other hand is more than one person, like in The Lost Thing. In Cicada, the people Cicada work with are the antagonist. They are the reason Cicada feels miserable and he is not moving forward. For example, Cicada says, “17 year. No promotion. Human resources say Cicada not human.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) And in the book, one of the pictures shows when someone is stepping on Cicada. You cannot see any human’s face in the pictures every time there is a picture of a human. You can only see Cicada. When Cicada left, they will probably never think of him. But Cicada will remember them, even when they’ve been completely awful.

The main conflict of this story is Cicada vs solitude. Cicada is just letting his coworkers control him, because Cicada does not have much self confidence. But Cicada knows he has to find courage if he wants to escape. So when he finally does find that courage, he retires, ready to step into the outside world. Cicada says, “time to say goodbye.” (Cicada, Shaun Tan) But he does not mean saying goodbye to the world, he is staying goodbye to the loneliness and blandness of the workplace.

Cicada has many themes. Such as submission to control (giving in to someone controlling you), resistance to control (not letting someone control you), solitude and loneliness, differences and prejudice. The message of this story is that you should always have patience and wait, because there is something better on the opposite side of the solitude you are facing. For example, Aditi says, “stick to your pride, because there is always something better on the other side.” (‘Work and Pride’, poem by Aditi). And if there is a chance that there is something worth waiting on, take those odds.

I would rate Cicada 4.5 stars because it is very relatable and is not too fanciful, yet it does have a twist of fiction and fantasy. I think the audience towards this book is years 3 and upwards. Even though this book is a picture book, the mood is rather dark, so I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers. In conclusion, Cicada is a great book with many memorable themes and pictures.

This is Aditi’s second review for Alphabet Soup. You can read earlier work by St Thomas’ Primary students here. To send us YOUR book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!