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Margaret Robson Kett

Imagine … the Wonder of Picture Books

State Library of New South Wales
03 February 2023
‘Just follow the ants,’ said a smiling guide at the Macquarie Street entrance to the State Library of New South Wales. I was led up the stairs by Tohby Riddle’s jaunty decals of those excellent insects to Imagine … the Wonder of Picture Books. ... (read more)

This month’s survey features three bewitching novels from authors intent on transporting younger readers to other worlds. In Alison Croggon’s latest fantasy novel, The Threads of Magic (Walker Books, $19.95 pb, 380 pp), Pip and his sister El are living in a poor but snug apartment in the city of Clarel, bequeathed to them by Missus Pledge. Pip, always on the lookout for opportunities, scoops up a silver box from the sidelines during a street brawl. The opening of this box burdens Pip with an ancient and grisly relic: the shrivelled black heart of a child.

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Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature

National Library of Australia
03 December 2019

Like a party where you hope to see famous faces, this exhibition offers the familiar – the Green Sheep, the wombats, the Magic Pudding – but also the chance to meet half-remembered friends and to make new ones. Story Time: Australian Children’s Literature, the result of three years’ work by curator Grace Blakeley-Carroll, features works from NLA’s collection and beyond. In the exhibition’s companion book, Story Time Stars, Blakeley-Carroll writes that, ‘regardless of whether we have children in our lives, we were all once young and many of us hold dear the stories of our childhood’.

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Maryanne Wolf’s excellent book about the reading brain, Proust and the Squid: The story and the science of the reading brain (2007), quotes Marcel himself ...

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Friendship can be a powerful force for change in a young adult’s life. These four new books explore the full gamut of the unlikely, advantageous, and destructive consequences of relationships. ... (read more)

Subhi lives with Maa and his older sister Queeny in ‘Family Three’, hoping that the ‘Night Sea’ will bring his Ba back to them. Born in detention to his Rohingya mother after she arrived illegally in Australia, his friend Eli and a kindly ‘Jacket’ make his life one of fitful pleasures amid the uncertainties of camp life. On the other side of the fence, i ...

With a needle on cloth, Mary Jane Hannaford preserved her sharp observations of people as stout appliquéd figures set amidst interpretative renditions of Australian animals. Late in life she embroidered favourite verses and slyly captioned her pictures in quilts for her family. Close to one hundred ...

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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.


In 2012, Shaun Tan was commissioned to make pictures for a German publisher's edition of fifty of the Brothers Grimms' fairy tales, retold by Philip (His Dark Materials) Pullman. Pullman's challenge is that the tales do not necessarily benefit from illustration – he dismisses most as 'art school exquisiteness'. Tan's response was to return to his boyhood ...

Pandora Jones by Barry Jonsberg & Crooked leg road by Jennifer Walsh

June–July 2014, no. 362

Where is the pleasure in reading a book as part of a series? A long acquaintance with known and trusted characters rewards the reader with the chance to share their growth and development through multiple challenges and adversities. For teenage readers, following protagonists their own age on this journey has particular rewards. All this, and cliffhangers, too.

Barry Jonsberg’s latest novel, Pandora Jones: Admission, is the first in a series. Jonsberg is a versatile and assured writer. His gift with character is the portrayal of young people who narrate their lives with humour and self-assurance. Dreamrider (2006) was a departure for him, depicting a character who was in psychological torment from dreams, which may or may not have been real.

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