There’s no denying this great, wide land of ours is, well, great! A lot of focus in recent times has been targeted towards our losses – of land, of lives, of homes and of precious wildlife. But lest never forget – we have a unique and wonderful world amongst us that ought to be absolutely celebrated and even more so, treasured. What a breath of fresh air, light and hope we can offer our young generation with amazing picture books that do just that. Here are a few we picked out in this time of appreciation for our beautiful Australia.
Jess Racklyeft‘s recent release literally emanates joy with her encyclopedia of Australiana beauty in Dreaming of Australia A to Z. The very essences of our unique flora and fauna, our majestic landscapes and authentic traditions feature amongst Racklyeft’s flowing, alphabetic rhythm and watercolour blends. This book elicits an atmosphere of utterly refreshing breeziness, even in the hottest of scenes, as we travel the country from A through to Z. The colours light up, both in pictures and text, highlighting each letter and its corresponding noun and descriptive phrase. I’m highly recommending this picture book for preschool-aged children for its literacy, issues-based and environmental learning potential, and its complete beauty.
Windy Hollow Books, July 2019.
Oh my gosh! If you don’t shed a tear once, you will shed a tear twice when reading The House on the Mountain. Author Ella Holcombe writes this reflective and poignant story of loss, movement and regrowth throughout a savage bushfire tragedy. Each Summer in Australia, families, businesses and wildlife are faced with the onslaught of nature’s fury, but not since the devastating Black Saturday (2009) bushfires has this story been more relevant, with an equally incomprehensible loss this 2019/20 season. Holcombe writes in present tense, highly emotive and achingly detailed, of a young girl and her family experiencing the threat, the need to escape, change and adaptation, sadness and acceptance, the sense of community, and the signs of new life – regrowth, rebuild, and the eventual healing. Illustrator David Cox’s harrowing scenes of chalky ash, the bright red amongst the black, the vignette scenes like photographs capturing the action all come together like a film reel, aptly reflecting the theme of memories of events that have passed. Through adult-led reading and discussion, this touching and eye-opening picture book gives stance to current climate issues and reinforces compassion and generosity for what is a long process of regeneration.
Allen and Unwin, February 2019.
Something a bit more fun now… A rhyming tale of mischievous proportions – here is a quokka so cunning and greedy – Clancy the Quokka is a real treat to feast your eyes and ears on. Author Lili Wilkinson entices with her verse that is delectably sweet and equally thrilling. The deceiving Clancy sneakily preys upon a fancy party, with a cake so divinely entrancing that he will go to any length to get his paws (and jaws) on this magnificent, colourful tower of sugar. And we watch, poring over the vibrant, bold and hilariously astonishing illustrations as, you can imagine, a disaster unfolds in the very thick of fairy bread, sausage rolls and piles of presents! Alison Mutton captures the quintessential essence of this cheeky marsupial with perfect expression and rounded belly to boot! This story is a wonderful representation of our multiculturalism, tourism, sense of community, and of course, the adorably devilish quokka. Delicious Australian fun for children from four and up.
Allen and Unwin, October 2019.
If tragedy has taught us anything, it’s that we can always do more. If at least we appreciate, to become aware, and help to preserve and protect, we are all doing our bit for the future of our nation. Reflection on the past must serve to teach, to ponder, to respect, and to plan for what’s to come. Let’s celebrate the great land of Aus!
Reviews by Romi Sharp.