Jackie French

From a rosy-cheeked preschooler to a glaring nationalist, this survey of recent children's pictures books features characters for readers of all ages. Emerging and established Australian picture-book makers demonstrate the range of talented storytelling available in this genre.

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Jennifer Maiden's The Fox Petition: New Poems (Giramondo) conjures foxes 'whose eyes were ghosts with pity' and foxes of language that transform the world's headlines

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Jackie French, according to the press release for her new adult novel To Love a Sunburnt Country, has written over 140 books in a twenty-five-year career. Many are for children and teenagers. I have only read one other, A Waltz for Matilda (2012), the first in ‘the Matilda Saga’ for teens; but these two books share at least one character and several characteristics.

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Books of the Year is always one our most popular features. Find out what our 41 contributors liked most this year – and why.

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I Have a Dog by Charlotte Lance & Imagine a City by Elise Hurst

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August 2014, no. 363

In order to appeal to a child audience, picture books often deal with similar subjects or themes. To compete in the marketplace, they therefore need a point of difference – something in the artist’s style, the author’s approach, the design of the book to set them apart.

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A good picture book melds a well-crafted text with illustrations that interpret and extend the narrative. The illustrator’s choice of artistic style is central to how effectively this combined narrative is communicated to readers. 

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You think you know what Jackie French’s Refuge (Angus & Robertson, $15.99 pb, 261 pp, 9780732296179) is going to be about, with its front cover photograph of a young boy, his dark eyes full of apprehension and sorrow. You still think you know when the refugee boat carrying the boy, Faris, and his grandmother, Jedda, to Australia is swamped by a huge wave and sinks. So you are almost as puzzled as Faris when he awakes to find himself in a sunlit bedroom with palm trees and a blue sky outside, and his beloved Jedda making breakfast for him. She encourages him to play on the beach, where a strange assortment of children is playing ball, and a naked, dark-skinned youth is spearing fish in the shallows. Faris is invited to join the game, with one proviso: on the beach he must never speak of the past. Faris agrees; there is too much pain in his past to talk about it.

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A pile of picture books to savour – what better start to the year? Experienced authors and artists are met again, and new favourites are found, in these eight books.

Margaret Wild and Freya Blackwood, wonderful book makers in their own right, make a special team in The Treasure Box (Viking, $24.99 hb, 32 pp, 9780670073658). A boy and his fathe ...

Diverse memories of childhood, ranging from Indigenous and migrant experiences to the Great Depression, permeate these evocative Australian picture books. Admired illustrator Bruce Whatley displays his range of styles in a pair of them; two others are set in Western Australia and Queensland. The potential danger of water is a disconcerting theme.

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Many Australian picture book authors and illustrators continue to develop the genre in exciting and unusual ways...

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