Author: Shaun Tan
Format: Hardback, Library book
Published: 26 June 2018, then again 29 January 2019
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Synopsis: For 17 years, Cicada has been working as a data processor. He is denied raises, promotions, and is ignored at best -mistreated at worst, by his coworkers. He can’t use the company bathroom and not-so-secretly lives in the office, though everyone else pretends not to notice. Cicada is humble, but despite being in a much more difficult situation, he still manages to have the last laugh over his coworkers.
Cicada is a picture book, but it’s not one I would read to my story time kids. My library actually has it cataloged as a teen book.
Everything about this book seems simple, which to me suggests it’s anything but. In a gray world, and despite wearing the same clothes as his coworkers, Cicada sticks out with his green appearance.
Being different makes Cicada’s coworkers think he is stupid and it also denies him any advancement and reward, despite giving 17 years of his life to his company. I found myself becoming frustrated at seeing how Cicada works late, never calls in sick, and never makes a mistake, yet it seems that he gets nothing in return but being treated as sub-human.
Using a bug, especially one like a cicada – which most people can’t stand, in place of a human who is treated like immigrants and migrants is definitely eye opening and hits hard, especially with what we are seeing today.
Things that happened in the past are not “once upon a time”, they are still happening today. How people who speak differently, look differently, etc. are treated is unacceptable.
I thought the ending was quite beautiful and especially thought-provoking. I won’t say anything else about it because I want you to read it and come up with your own interpretation.
As for the illustrations, they were hauntingly beautiful. They added so much power to the already intense, yet simple words.
Have you read Cicada? What did you think?