Such is the enduring quality of Pamela Allen’s work that, to this day, whenever my bathtub overspills, I picture Mr Archimedes jumping in and out of his animal-filled tub—like many others who have grown up with Allen’s books over the past thirty-odd years, I suspect. Her latest offering, about an elderly couple and their Sunday roast ritual, follows the gentler, more contemplative tone of recent worksThe Little Old Man Who Looked Up at the Moon and The Toymaker and the Bird. One Sunday, amid a raging storm, an old man calms his fretting wife: it’s Sunday and, no matter what, they will have roast lunch and visitors. And so they set about cooking their meal, until a surprise guest arrives. Very young readers might not grasp this book’s underlying sense of nostalgic longing and loss, but this tale of generosity, hospitality and hope—and the importance of keeping traditions alive—is accessible for readers aged from three years. Allen’s simple yet effective text builds tension, and conveys expectation and surprise in a way that’s ideal for reading out loud. It’s the illustrations, however, that truly captivate here. Surely some of Allen’s best, they capture her characters with empathy, intimacy and warmth.
Meredith Lewin is a Sydney-based freelance reviewer, editor and proofreader. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 2, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
This picture book tells an emotional story about the relationship between a cheeky seagull called Max and a fish-and-chip shop-owner called Bob. Max has become a friend to Bob, who feeds the bird chips from his store, which is located on an ocean boardwalk. Unfortunately, market forces play their part when, one summer, the nearby fun fair is dismantled. Customers no longer visit the boardwalk, the shops close down and Bob disappears. After waiting for days, then weeks, for Bob’s return, Max decides to fly over the city to search for his friend, until he once again sniffs that familiar fish-and-chip smell. Marc Martin has written a heartfelt story that encourages readers to love Max. To create his unique brand of illustration, Martin uses lino print, splatter paint and sponge textures within sharp stylised shapes, which he previously used in the brilliant picture book The Curious Explorer’s Illustrated Pocket Guide to Exotic Animals A to Z. This is an excellent book for children under five years.
Andrew Wrathall is Books+Publishing’s production guru and enjoys long walks on the beach. This review first appeared in Junior Term 1, 2014 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Independently and together, Janeen Brian and Ann James have produced many successful and award-winning picture books for young children. Both know how to appeal to children’s sense of fun, and how much they love to take an active part in the reading. Toddlers in particular love to join in the playful antics depicted in books such as this one, and never tire of hearing the same story over and over, which helps to develop their reading skills. So this book will be a great success at an early childhood level. It is about getting dirty and enjoying it—a pursuit all toddlers can relate to. It has action, repetition and rhyming text, and will be fun for young children to join in with. It has simple, uncluttered illustrations that focus on the main character, the mud and very little else besides a small bird, which adds extra interest. James uses ‘magic pencil, mud and watercolour’ for the illustrations, and she probably got very dirty in the process. This fun book could be successful as a prelude to bath time, urging reluctant bathers to dive right in. It is recommended for early childhood.
Margaret Hamilton is a former children’s book publisher. She now provides freelance publishing services and runs Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in Blackheath, NSW. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 1 2013 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
An urban 20-something Aussie girl gets on the booze in a San Francisco bar, chats up a soulful, handsome stranger, has more drinks and finds herself in his bed next morning. Months pass, they drift into a relationship, then the man (Argentinian Ivan) introduces DeRoche to his other love—a sound but aging ocean yacht named Amazing Grace. His ambition—obsession might be a better word—is to spend years at sea, escaping from the world and coming ashore as rarely as possible. DeRoche could hardly be a worse companion for him, being a sophisticated city girl with a serious water phobia, yet they fall so deeply in love that she resolves to conquer her mountain of fears and accompany him. Her book is the entertainingly told story of the three years the couple spend planning and executing their voyage, despite doom-saying friends and family, DeRoche’s inexperience at sea, storms and setbacks and Ivan’s almost slapstick ability to court accidents. The book is by turns gripping, laugh-out-loud funny, moving and uplifting. It races to its conclusion and gives tantalising glimpses of their life after Amazing Grace. Almost any reader with a sense of adventure or a desire to confront their fears should love it. This book was originally self-published under the title Swept, before being purchased by a major trade publisher.
Max Oliver is a Sydney bookseller and traveller. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.