Picture Book Survey

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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Depicting war in a picture book requires a deft hand. Historical imperatives need to be considered, while also avoiding glorifying war for a young and impressionable audience. Ideally, such books should promote informed discussion rather than mindless militarism.

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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 ...

Tohby Riddle’s Unforgotten (Allen & Unwin, $35 hb, 123 pp, 9781742379722) will be appreciated by aficionados of Shaun Tan’s sophisticated illustrated works and Riddle’s impressive books. This atmospheric book is allegorical and metaphorical, and the structure is cyclic. It begins and ends in the heavens; and gradually revea ...

Good picture books stimulate a child’s imagination. Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King celebrate creativity in The Magnificent Tree (Scholastic, $24.99 hb, 32 pp, 9781742832951). Bonny and Pops enjoy sharing ideas and making things together. Bonny’s inventions are ‘simple, clever and properly made’, while Pops’s creations are ‘big, brave and brilliant with bits sticking out’. Determined to attract the attention of the birds flying overhead, each comes up with a different but equally satisfying solution. King’s bulbous-nosed cartoon characters, minimalist backgrounds, and organic machinery interact with Bland’s thoughtful text to present a gently reassuring tale about intergenerational friendship and creative problem-solving.

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Australian picture books are among the best in the world. Some of our most notable authors and illustrators include Bob Graham, Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood, Stephen Michael King, and Glenda Millard. The latest books by these creators are valuable additions to Australian children’s literature.

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Mamang   by Kim Scott, Iris Woods, and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project & Noongar Mambara Bakitj by Kim Scott, Lomas Roberts and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project

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February 2012, no. 338

Mamang and Noongar Mambara Bakitj are retellings of traditional Noongar narratives by the Miles Franklin Award-winning author Kim Scott, in collaboration with a team of others. The books are part of a broader Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories reclamation and revitalisation project currently under way in the south-western coastal region of Western Australia, an area roughly traversing Albany to Esperance. Like many other Australian languages today, Noongar is barely hanging on. These modest diglot books, charmingly illustrated by Noongar people in simple, unaffected, and direct style, therefore represent a timely intervention into the continuing post-colonial destruction of this critically (and globally) endangered language.

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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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A matter of style

Stephanie Owen Reeder

 

Once upon a time, Australian picture books were easy to pick because of their distinctive artwork, which often featured Australia’s unique landscape and its flora and fauna. Nowadays, many Australian illustrators adopt a more universal style.

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