Perhaps one of the most fulfilling perks of writing for kids is the time spent flitting around in my imagination. It’s a weird, boundless place, which allows me to harness old memories and reinvigorate them into wondrous dreams-come-true. These next few picture books are glorious examples of tapping into imaginative flights of fantasy and exploring the possibilities.
When I was a kid, I trussed up my trusty bicycle with the dog’s lead so that I had my very own ‘horse’ to ride around the backyard. I jumped my Malvern Star-steed in Gymkhanas, rode for days through dusty paddocks and occasionally found a hut high in the Snowy Mountains to hunker down in and ride out a storm. A remarkable amount of miles covered for a 12-year-old.
Young MacDonald, son of the much loved, Old Mac, is no different. We first meet Young Mac after he gets his own little red bike. To the familiar refrain of this well-known nursery rhyme, Young Mac goes a ting-a-linging everywhere on his bike. Encounters with a variety of vibrant characters on the farm, slowly transform his bike into a bike-digger-pirate-ship-chopper-sub-rocket that fills his day with ‘fantastical adventure’ (albeit no ponies but there you go).
Young MacDonald is a rollicking ride that embraces imagination in the most playful and exuberant way. Kids will love the sing-along familiarity of this tale and like me no doubt, will have little trouble accepting the beautiful reality of living out your fantasies. Poli’s debut attempt at authoring and illustrating a picture book is a positive combination of explosive colour and creative word play that creates plenty of literal and metaphysical movement making it real joy to read. A fun, shared reading experience for toddlers and pre-schoolers and anyone who wishes their bike was really a horse, as I did.
Yellow Brick Books May 2018
Debut children’s author, Kellie Byrnes and accomplished illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn, have created a sensual feast that not only celebrates the art of imagination but also encourages it for emotional well-being. Daydreaming children are often frowned upon; their lack of concentration regarded with distain. Byrnes turns that aberration on its head, inviting young children to literally keep their heads firmly in the clouds as it were, for how else will they be able to conduct them.
Using text suffused with lilting expressive language, we follow young Frankie’s convalescence through the changing seasons. It is sometimes chilly, other times suffocatingly oppressive, yet throughout each change in her life Frankie finds infinite solace in looking skyward and conducting symphonies with the clouds that only she can hear. These auditory journeys take her though storms, riotous gardens, the seaside and the dusty outback. They keep her company and expand her world beyond the confinement of her illness, thus helping her perceive her situation, sad though it is at times, with fresh insight.
Frankie realises that her penchant for escapism amongst the clouds is not something every one might be able to experience as easily as her, so with patience and understanding, she shares this gift with others and makes their worlds a better place by doing so.
Touching and affirmative, this picture book explores a delicate situation with care and consideration and great glorious cloud-clumps of imagination, all beautifully reinforced by Finn’s beguiling illustrations.
Perfect for daydreaming 4 – 8 year-olds.
Wombat Books May 2018
Imagine having a means to transport you anywhere, anytime to all kinds of wondrous places from which to escape your ordinary world, troubles or just for the thrill of it. One small girl lives in a world of finite opportunities, ‘a world sewn together by boundaries,’ but as she grows, she yearns for more. She’s caught wind of freedom machines and craves one of her own but they are difficult to come by in her limited world.
One day she manages with considerable effort to unearth a freedom machine of her own. After getting used to it, she and her machine breach the boundaries and…fly. It takes her anywhere and everywhere allowing her to ‘return a little more entire’ after each journey.
This eloquently worded, exquisitely crafted picture book is a breathless portrayal of defying odds, striking out, breaking the boundaries and acting bravely. It is also a marvellous acclamation of the humble power of stories and their consummate ability to transport you to those very same wondrous places.
Saunders suggests that no matter what your circumstance or origin, books are the penultimate vehicles for discovery and freedom. An obvious sentiment perhaps but one that runs deep for children of all situations, adults in dire circumstances like incarceration and cultural persecution, and any emotionally wounded individual. They allow us to learn, ponder, aspire…hope. Such freedom machines are incredible. This storybook is as well.
Ottley’s breathtaking artwork, cleverly merging reality with imagination and Saunders’ compelling words forge a picture book that is truly spellbinding and complete. Highly recommended for lower primary aged-readers and above, and of course lovers of books everywhere.
Scholastic Press May 2018