As International Women’s Day approaches, this is a timely release of a collection of international women artists spanning a variety of genres including painting, drawing, sculpture, and more. The work of each is succinctly summarised in the title of each double-page spread such as F is for Flower (Georgia O’Keefe), O is for Opposites (Hilma Af Klint), Q is for Quilt (The Gee’s Bend Collective) and Y for Yarn (Xenobia Bailey). While there is just a paragraph describing the thrust of their work, there are more detailed biographical notes about each in the final pages as well as a provocative question about each inspiring the reader to think and do according to the medium or concept that captures their attention. For example, aspiring quilters are challenged to consider who in their community they would like to work with on a collaborative piece.
Australian artist Mirka Mora is featured (A is for Angels because these found their way into work so often) but this could serve as a model for students to create their own spreads with a focus on the works of Australian artists. Rather than just retelling the artist’s life, the challenge becomes the summation of their works. Definitely one to share with your art faculty.
The saying “there’s no place like home” has never been expressed so poignantly as in this new book from leading indigenous artist Bronwyn Bancroft who always creates a visual feast accompanied by lyrical text. The young girl is coming home across the old wrinkled hills, through the palette of “leaf green, red rust, yellow ochre, deep blue and crimson” to draw in the breath of the valley, listen to the bird orchestra, slip into crystal clear waters and be held in the embrace of her ancestors.
“This is peace” and even with its bright colours and traditional busy patterns, that is exactly the feeling that is evoked by the gentle words as they envelop the reader. With the tumultuous summer we are experiencing with such weather extremes and the insatiable fire dragon, this is the book that we and our children need so we can retreat to somewhere safe and know that there is the evidence that Mother Nature will prevail if we would only listen to those who have cared for the land for generations. In her dedication she urges her “three warriors” to keep rallying for change so that “all children can have hope for the future” and know that the fire-ravaged, desecrated landscape that they are seeing right now can heal.
A timely release as we seek to comfort those for whom everything currently seems bleak and black and silent so they know that there can and will be colour and noise and life again soon.
Fourteen words. If books were priced based on the number of words the story had, then you would probably ask for your money back with this one, but those 14 words document a life-changing episode in one family – a family that could be any one of a number of those whose children we teach and will teach as conflict continues to circle the world. Just fourteen words to tell such a story that are more powerful than if there were 10 or 100 times that many.
War displaces the family and their pet duck and so they must escape on a boat into the unknown. At first there is the CHAOS of the conflict; then there is the WILD ocean as a storm tosses the boat and overturns it;but BEAUTY awaits as they finally sight land ahead and at last they are SAFE.
But words alone are not enough and it is the remarkable and powerful watercolour illustrations that meld with those 14 words to tell an all-too familiar story of despair, hope, courage, resilience and joy. In fact, more mature readers might be able to empathise with the family and retell the story using an emotion for each page, perhaps sparking greater understanding and compassion for their peers who have lived the nightmare. But while those illustrations have strong words to convey, they have soft lines and gentle colours so the humanity and reality of the people is maintained and the reader is not turned off by page after page of darkness.. Again, older students could compare the illustrations and mood of this book with those of the 2019 CBCA Honours Book The Mediterranean.
Accompanying notes tell us that both author and illustrator were driven by the need to tell what is becoming a common story so that there is greater understanding and compassion amongst those whose lives are less traumatic and through that, build stronger, more cohesive communities so that life is better, enriched and enhanced for everyone. Edmonds deliberately chose a Middle Eastern family as her centrepiece because of the richness of the culture so that the reader can appreciate the depth and meaning of what is being left behind – the dilemma of leaving all that is known and loved for the uncertainty of the unknown and the heartache and danger that either choice will bring.
Beyond the storyline itself, this is a book that so clearly demonstrates the critical, integral relationship between text and illustration, that a picture really is “worth a thousand words” , and often the picture book format is the most powerful way to tell a story.
Nina lives with her father above the palace stables at the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. She loves watching the famous white stallions as they parade for the crowds, but her favourite horse is a mare called Zelda – an old cab horse Nina often pats on her way home from school.
When Nina’s world changes dramatically, she and her father have to flee from the city. Their journey over the mountains with Zelda and the stallions seems impossible, with danger at every turn. It will require all of Nina’s bravery, daring and faith in an extraordinary old horse.
This is a new edition of the picture book first released 10 years ago, now in a format that will attract newly independent readers to enjoy this story inspired by the rescue of the Lipizzaner stallions from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the Second World War, offering yet another story and insight into that conflict. although Lester insists it is a work of fiction.
With all the original illustrations – the main characters being in black and white line drawings set against lavish colourful backgrounds – this is an intriguing read that justifies its re-release and promotion to a whole new generation.
This is one of the most unusual books I’ve reviewed for a long time and one of the most fascinating. Paired with an informative verse about its subject, each illustration is created by using the letters of the creature’s name and the reader is challenged to find each one. From the vibrant mandrill on the front cover, the challenge is set to take a journey through the natural world discovering everything from swans to budgerigars, all cleverly constructed from their letters.
Readers have to examine the details in each illustrations, honing their visual acuity skills amongst others, as Coote has had fun with fonts, their shapes and sizes to tease even the most discerning eye. One for those boys who like to gather round the same book and test themselves. And having got the concept by looking, students can then be challenged to try for themselves, remembering that they not only have to spell the name correctly and use all the letters, but make the finished design resemble to creature!! Something very different for an art/biology lesson that could be a shared activity as the artists draw and the wordsmiths research to create the verse!
A significant step up from the usual look-and-find books for younger readers.
Throughout history, the horse has been the subject of paintings, sketches, sculptures and other interpretations and each artist has viewed the same creature through a different lens. Some have seen its outline, others its bulk; some have seen its lines, others its strength, and each has conveyed their perception in a different way. According to Ted Geisel (aka Dr Seuss), when an artist sees a horse, it is not viewed from a photographic point of view but what the horse means to them as a person, and that depends on their education, experience and the thousands of other influences that shape anyone’s view of the world, not just its horses.
Twenty-one years after Geisel’s death, his wife found the manuscript that is the basis of this book illustrated by South Australian Andrew Joyner. The actual timeline of the manuscript is unclear but it does reflect Geisel’s lifetime interest in art with rough pencil sketches and notes for the entire book, and this has now been interpreted by Joyner using his imagination and the actual art works that Geisel planned. Working through a range of art genres including Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction, the young reader is not only taken on a journey through the interpretation of the horse but through art itself, offering an introduction to the various movements that have swept the world along making this a book for older readers as much as for younger. Accompanied by notes about the manuscript, Geisel’s own art and the featured works, the story is told in prose (as opposed to the usual rhyme) and speaks directly to the reader so it is entertaining as well as educational.
It’s a great discussion starter as young artists think about what they see when they see a horse, as well as a springboard for getting out the tools and creating a personal interpretation. Something unique to add to the art curriculum.
Two ducks with attitude are making their way through the forest when suddenly they encounter Moose…
To tell the rest of the story would not only spoil it but would also just be my interpretation of the sparse text juxtaposed against the fabulous illustrations which contain all the action and expressions, the problem and its solution.
This is one of those books that is perfect for encouraging littlies to read both the words and the pictures and tell their own story, and even though Australian children might not be familiar with a moose there is no mistaking what it is and its impact on the ducks. With the endpapers being an integral part of the story, it really does encourage interaction with the whole book and provides so much scope for language development, not just reading.
So, as well as being perfect for littlies, it is also rich enough in its story for being one for those who are learning English as a new language to also engage with. Apart from interpreting the story itself, there is scope to talk about the expressions and emotions, so perfectly portrayed in the illustrations and which are universal.
A true picture book where every element is interdependent and the key link between them is the reader and their imagination.
From the publisher… “About one hundred years ago, the whole world went to war. The war was supposed to last months. It lasted years. It is Christmastime, 1914, and World War I rages. A young French soldier named Pierre had quietly left his regiment to visit his family for two days, and when he returned, he was imprisoned. Now he faces execution for desertion, and as he waits in isolation, he meditates on big questions: the nature of patriotism, the horrors of war, the joys of friendship, the love of family, and how even in times of danger, there is a whole world inside every one of us. And how sometimes that world is the only refuge. “
Published to coincide with the centenary of the Treaty of Versailles, one of five treaties formulated at the Paris Peace Conference as part of the peace negotiations at the end of the First World War, the readership of this book is older than what is normally reviewed for this site, despite its sparse text. However, it is a new and important addition to any collection about World War I and there will be primary school students who will appreciate the conceptual issues it raises as they become more aware of “the difficult truths of humanity”.
Written by a Frenchman now living in Australia, and illustrated by miniature reenactments of the scenes that have then been photographed, the book is the winner of 1st Prize at the Prix Sorcières 2019, France’s most prestigious award for children’s books. The story is based on true facts and its connection to the author and the illustrators and their processes have been detailed in the final pages.
Elise was frightened—of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything.
This is a charming story, cleverly constructed with its dark and bright palettes, that shows how a child can unwittingly bring life and light back to where there seems only darkness. Using a unique process of drawing Elise and Emil and then placing their cutout figures in a small, tidy home with furnishings crafted of paper and board, photographing them and then adding colour washes or not as the story’s mood dictates, Damm demonstrates how much we really do need others in our lives if we are to experience its true joy. The final page demonstrates this perfectly.
Whenever there is a news story about children visiting an aged care facility, the residents always talk about how alive they start to feel, something that my own mother-in-law experienced herself. Unable to recognise her own son and daughter towards the end, nevertheless she was able to recall the words to the songs that our school choir sang and join in with them. But not only did she talk about it to us for many visits afterwards, the children themselves also talked about the people they had met, the grandparents they didn’t have and the friendships that were beginning to blossom as the visits became a regular fortnightly activity. There was a purpose to their learning new lyrics and practising their singing and my m-i-l always knew when there was a visit imminent.
Lots of scope to develop vocabulary about feelings but more powerfully, never underestimate the power of a child in someone’s life and think about how you and yours could brighten someone else’s.
On the surface, this looks like a how-to guide to creating illustrations using collage, a technique defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing”. Created by Jeannie Baker whose collage masterpieces have fascinated readers in all her works including Where the Forest Meets the Sea and Window, the reader is led through various sections that explore and explain such things as the tools to be used, the materials that lend themselves to being used and even a page that challenges the reader to identify a variety of those materials.
But to me, its power lies in its introduction. Ms Baker shares how even examining paint that has dried and weathered fascinated her, and how its cracks and layers told her so much about the story of the object it was adhered to. Each was another story in its history and made her curious and she would carefully collect a piece to add to other pieces that would help tell a similar story. She finds the materials for her work everywhere, both natural and manmade, and she has become more and more observant of the things that make up this world and how they can be used together to create something new and equally wondrous. And as she says, the purpose of the book is to inspire the reader to be and do the same – to look more closely, to discover “secrets and gems”, to think about them beyond their original purpose or state, and to create more and different magic with them.
As young children move through the natural stages of creating pictures, they get to one where their creation must be lifelike and when it doesn’t meet their expectations, that’s where their artistic abilities stall. They are so dissatisfied with their efforts they tell themselves they can’t draw and the negative self-talk takes over. But, as Ms Baker points out, “When you work in abstract, you don’t have to worry about how things ‘should’ be done -it allows for you to be far more creative and free. There are no right or wrong answers: nothing is ‘bad, just trust your instincts and PLAY!”
By offering the reader ideas for starting their own collage and sharing samples of her work by putting the individual found pieces into a pleasing arrangement, this book should kickstart those who have stalled off in a new direction, encouraging them to pay closer attention to the shapes, colours and textures of the world around them, as well as sending them back to Baker’s earlier works to examine them in closer detail.
In the breakneck speed that our children seem to lead their lives, anything that gives them cause to pause, stop, look and wonder, perhaps even create, has to be a positive influence. There is tremendous scope to use this as the centrepiece of a group activity in the library, with children invited to bring in suitable materials and arrange them in interesting ways – rather like the group jigsaw but much more creative because there is no “right way.” Get started with the Teachers Resource Kit and worksheets.
She also talks to the ABC about her long career, her love of collage and her passion for the environment here.