Lizzy Stewart has a wonderful dual status in our world: On one hand she is the author of the sublime Walking Distance, a thoughtful look at womanhood in the 21st century; but she is also the writer and illustrator of our kids’s favourite book Tiger in the Garden. As such any new work from her is met with high anticipation whichever genre she is working in and Lights Planets People is no exception!
Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: Molly Naylor
Artist: Lizzy Stewart
Price: £16.99 from Avery Hill’s Store
Im Lights, Planets, People! Lizzy teams up with playwright Maolly Naylor to adapt her play about a female physicist who is giving a lecture to a group of young scientists. This may not seem like much for a story, but she is also undergoing therapy to look at her mental health (including her bipolar), as well as relationship struggles and Naylor juxtaposes these two sides of her character (the confident scientist and the not-so-confident human) to make a compelling narrative.
Though we’ve not seen the play this feels like an exceptional adaptation and one which does not suffer from the perennial problem of a shift from medium to medium, as this feels as if it has always existed in this form all long. The story is split into three main scenes, the lecture, the therapy and flashbacks to key moments and covers themes such as women in science, honesty and trust in relationships, how mental health can impact our lives, as well as ageing and personal legacy too.
It’s a wonderfully layered story and yet is told in such a smooth and seamless way. While our summation implies it is a quite heavy story in terms of content, it is anything but. These important and heavyweight topics are handled in a very sensitive and emotive way and Naylor and Stewart have a very light touch. In doing this it makes for a story which is just very real and identifiable. Yet it is still unique enough to make it feel worthy of being documented.
For example we really enjoyed the fact Maggie was an older character, and this definitely added to her stature. While her relationships and struggles with her bi-polar disorder also helps make her into a very complex, but also very sympathetic character who you root for, as you want her to succeed in spite of herself. (But it’s more of an encouraging arm around the shoulder rather than a congratulatory hi-five kind of support!) Overall, the tone of it all just feels so sympathetic and real, it just makes for a very human story.
After lauding Stewart in our intro we have to mention her artwork which is superb as always. With the expressive facials of Rachael Smith (Quarantine Comix) but the sketchy quality of Rachel Ball (Wolf) (or kids book authors like Oliver Jeffers) Lizzie manages to capture the nuances of the characters perfectly as well as the complexity of their back story. Yet she does this against some sublime backgrounds and landscapes which all have a watercolour wash feel to them which just feels exquisite in this gorgeous printed hardcover. The mix of talking heads and lecture never feel dull and every panel feels like a perfectly judged character moment, all of which add to the levels of greatness of this wonderful book.
While our expectations were high for this book, they exceeded them but not in the way we thought. This a thoughtful, intelligent and emotionally rich story that draws you in and takes on a compelling journey into one woman’s world.