272pp., hbk., RRP $A39.99
One hundred years ago the first edition of May Gibbs’ iconic Gumnut Babies was published – the forerunner to her classic Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In this stunning centenary edition which echoes the original layout, fonts, illustrations and colours, a new generation is introduced to the stories of The Gumnut Babies, the Gum Blossom Babies, The Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, and Chucklebud and Wunkydoo.
On all the big Gumtrees there are Gumnut Babies. Some people see them and some don’t; but they see everybody and everything. Perhaps that’s why their eyes are so big… They are full of mischief and are always teasing the slow-going creatures; but they hurt nothing and are gentle, for they love all the worlda.
Born in 1877 in England and coming to Australia at just four years old, May Gibbs spent years observing the bush and its creatures as her family farmed in both South Australia and Western Australia and she claimed she “could draw before I could walk”. She excelled at botanical drawing and has said, “It’s hard to tell, hard to say, I don’t know if the bush babies found me or I found the little creatures”. The Gumnut Babies made their first appearance in 1913 as part of the illustrations for Ethel Turner’s The Magic Button and gradually the bushland fantasy world grew with the writing and publication of a number of stories, including the publication of Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie in 1918.
Gibbs was a fierce protector of the environment and these stories are guaranteed to have young readers begin to appreciate all that lives in our unique natural landscape. Her legacy lives on through Nutcote as well as her generous gift of leaving the copyright of all her works to Northcott which provides support to those with disabilities and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance which supports the 34 000 people living with this condition in Australia alone.
Apart from being a classic of Australian literature the May Gibbs website offers activities and lesson plans; there is a stage production of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie currently touring the country and the State Library of NSW has an online exhibition of her works.
A fitting centenary tribute to a true Australian classic.