Afloat in Venice
One Tentacle Publishing, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
Long ago when people were allowed to travel where and when they wanted, Monkey decided to take a holiday. First to be packed was his new camera and then everything else he was sure he would need. Two days in a plane, a long boat ride and a lot of stairs saw him arrive in a city that seemed to grow straight out of the sea! He was in Venice in Italy.
Almost as soon as he steps pout to explore the city, he meets Clarabella, a friendly cat who offers to show Monkey the sights of the city and they spend the day taking photos of all the iconic places. But when Monkey drops his camera and it falls into a disappearing gondola, he discovers that there are more important things in his life…
This is a unique book and it is going to appeal to a broad audience, not just those who are familiar with Venice or who have dreams to go there.
Most striking are the illustrative techniques. Monkey and his friends are soft toys, lovingly knitted by the author’s mother who has also provided the patterns on Monkey’s website, and they are pictured against stunning photographic images of Venice. After being given Monkey as a gift and sharing photos of him with her partner Matt Ottley while they were separated because of work. the author realised that soft toys are a universal language among adults and children, particularly given the number that have their own Instagram accounts, and that this could be a unique way for readers to travel .when circumstances (not just COVID-19 restrictions) prevented it. Monkey’s adventures were born.
Monkey’s adventures reminded me of the fun we had with hosting exchange teddies back in the early days of the Internet when we could share their adventures in almost real time using the early digital cameras and creating webpages using raw html code. The places those toys could take us once people learned why we were photographing them against particular backdrops! And what our students learned about the world and their place in it, the friendships made – Monkey and Clarabella epitomise those.
Enriching the experience enormously, partner/composer/illustrator Matt Ottley (winner of the 2021 CBCA Picture Book of the Year ) has composed a soundtrack to accompany the book so that all its nuances are experienced in full sensory mode. There are two tracks – one to accompany the child holding the book and listening to it being read to them; the other a more extended version to take the whole experience into the world of those with visual disabilities who may have braille for the words but nothing for the pictures. The extended narration and music enable them to ‘see’ the whole thing. These are included with the book as a CD but for those without the equipment, it can be downloaded.
And there are more of Monkey’s adventures to be released in 2022.
This is going to be a stand-out read-aloud and read-alone in your collection because it is that wonderful combination of story and illustrations with characters and situations that its audience will relate to and all the added extras will make Monkey and his friends their friends too.