Awards such as the Griffith University Children’s Book Award, which recognises excellent books for the young, is a great place to find books to share and enjoy with children. A run-down on this year’s shortlisted books and winner follows:
Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela, illustrator: Matt Ottley (Penguin/Viking)
Suri, the protagonist of the picture book Suri’s Wall, is living behind a wall in a grim institution. Its stonework and mountaintop buildings create a timeless, universal setting. She feels segregated from the other children because of her height but this is what eventually enables her to peer over the wall. She is then able to distract and comfort the smaller children with stories of what she sees.
Matt Ottley’s fantastical illustrations of “golden bridges stretching far beyond sight”, a colourful township and a surreal circus enhance the imaginative spaces in Lucy Estela’s story, enabling destruction to be supplanted by beauty.
How the Sun Got to Coco’s House by Bob Graham (Walker Books)
Bob Graham’s How the Sun Got to Coco’s House will no doubt be recognised in both Australian and international awards lists. The story follows the journey of the sun from the Arctic to Europe, Asia and the Subcontinent, across mountains, seas, cities and countryside, over whales, birds, planes and people. It finally arrives at Coco’s house in time to wake her up.
Bob Graham’s perfectly formed spare text and detailed, light-filled watercolour illustrations show what the sun touches in its daily travels. The sun does reach Coco’s house and, “But for a few passing clouds, they spend the whole day together”.
Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn; illustrator: Gaye Chapman (Little Hare)
Young, red-haired Georgie is often left out of the games of her older siblings so she devises imaginative games to play by herself. Max and Harriet are eventually intrigued enough by what is occupying Georgie to beg her to let them join in.
The illustrations are whimsical and add to the celebration of play, which is such an important and productive way for young children to spend their time.
Me, Teddy by Chris McKimmie (Allen & Unwin)
Brisbane-based Chris McKimmie has been creating unconventional picture books for quite a few years now. A number of them have been shortlisted for awards. His idiosyncratic style of collage, mixed media and additions by young family members often help readers unconsciously discover different aspects of Brisbane life or new ways of looking at things.
Me, Teddy captures the endearing development of a black Labrador and his growing place in the family. The extra work and trouble he causes is completely nullified by the warmth and love he brings.
And the deserving winner of this category is:
Kidglovz by Julie Hunt; illustrator:Dale Newman (Allen & Unwin)
Young pianist prodigy Kidglovz is controlled by Dr Eronius Spin but is ‘rescued’ after meeting tightrope walker, Shoestring. His life revolves around music and he ‘hears’ the stars as being five octaves high, the night is in D minor and people sound like melodies. Kidglovz encounters adventures and unusual villains and characters in his search for truth and safety.
This innovative and impressive graphic novel for primary age children is illustrated in black and white and is a wonderful way of ‘stepping’ into literature.