32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
For children moving house away from friends and familiar things can be tougher than parents realise, and especially so when the move is from one well-known environment to one that is completely unknown.
Mae and her family move from her house with a garden, an apple tree, daisies and daffodils, green grass and birds to an inner-city apartment that is all rooftops and tall buildings – the epitome of the concrete jungle. There are no windy paths and leafy cubbies, just statues and Keep Off The Grass signs. There are no treasures for her treasure jar, just boxes and more boxes and when she tries to draw familiar things on the pavement outside, the rain washes them away. No matter what she does, Mae cannot make this new place resemble her old one.
But one day, standing on a box peering through her binoculars at the endless rooftops, she spies an open space with swings in the distance and so she, her mum and dog set off to find it. It is a long walk through this unforgiving city and the end result is a disappointment. But as she sits forlornly on the swing, she spies a bird and follows it until it disappears into a leafy forest. But the forest is closed. And then Mae spots something that changes things…
Anna Walker is the creator of Mr Huff, winner of the CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year in 2016, Peggy shortlisted in 2013 and a host of other books that centre around her ability to get into the head of the subject, consider “what if…” and then emerges through her gentle, detailed illustrations that bring the text to life and invite the reader to delve deeply into them.
Mae could be any child who has moved house, perhaps with little say in the decision made by parents concerned with adult-things, who has discovered themselves amongst the totally unfamiliar but who has drawn on their inner reserves and resilience to try to make it work until eventually it does. Without describing Mae’s feelings, but detailing her actions in words and pictures, the reader feels and understands Mae’s vulnerability and bewilderment and yet throughout there is a sense of hope and a knowledge that she will prevail. Despite the bleakness of the city and its harsh facade there is a feeling that Mae will break through – perhaps it is in the children who come to view her courtyard art amidst empty plants pots or in the new budding trees as she goes through the streets, or in the swan, duck and ducklings in the river as the city awakens to spring… Florette, a small flower that makes up a bigger one, is the perfect title for this story perfectly encapsulating that concept of from little things…
A look through Anna Walker’ website shows a host of awards for her work – this could well be added to that list.