dark story, suitable for older readers
CICADA tells the story of working in a corporate job. Cicada is a good employee who works hard and doesn’t take sick days. He’s been working for 17 years without raises and without resources (since he is not human and that is what human resources are for). He lives in the walls of the building because he cannot afford a place to live. The other workers there bully him. When he takes bathroom breaks, his pay is docked since he is not allowed to use the office bathrooms for humans and must go elsewhere. He is finally retiring at the end of the book.
This is a dark and depressing picture book only suitable for older readers and adults. I would not recommend for young children (though many of the concepts may go over their heads). Cicada is dealing with systemic abuse and treatment as an Other (a theme throughout human history). This has some important correlates for adults and older readers. The ending is unexpected.
What I loved: This book has the potential to spark some really important discussions. The images and illustrations are very artistic and lovely, with muted colors to parallel the depressing tone. A lot is told through the images- more so than through the minimal text, and this is always an engaging way to tell a story.
What left me wanting more: I have concerns about the format, a picture book, which would appeal to younger readers, when the content is not particularly appropriate for preschool/early elementary audiences. In particular (and this may be a spoiler plus warning for suicidality, so be forewarned), the last text reads, “No work. No home. No money. Cicada go to top of tall building. Time to say goodbye. Tok Tok Tok!” What actually ends up happening is that the cicada sheds his shell and becomes a winged bug, flying off the building. Of course, different young readers have different maturity levels, and so, this book could be useful in starting some critical discussions. However, I would definitely recommend to an older audience who can understand more and spark larger discussions.
Final verdict: This dark picture book reflects some depressing themes which can spark some important discussions. It is overall an artistic book with beautiful images that speak to the soul of Cicada and the oppressed. Would recommend for older audiences, pre-teen and above, rather than the usual picture book crowd.