Review – Somebody’s House

Somebody's House PBHave you ever wandered down your street and wondered who shares it with you? Do you like to let your curiosity conjure up interesting occupants based entirely on the external appearance of a dwelling? I do. I’m not sure if young children do this as consciously as us more questioning grown up types but Katrina Germein’s newly released picture book, Somebody’s House, allows them to do just that, and absolutely guilt-free.

At the bottom of a little girl’s town by the sea is ‘a long, looping street’. I immediately want to visit this street and find out who we’ll meet. As the little girl drifts along it, she passes houses of every size and description and colour. She catches glimpses of the occupants’ lives from the objects she spies in their gardens or poking out of windows or perched up in trees. Each page poses the enigmatic question, ‘who do you think is inside?’

The speculative answers are the result of her assumptions and vivid imagination and, quite possibly true, although I’m not sure if scarf-knitting ewes and high-heel wearing peacocks are your run-of-the-mill suburban types.

Katrina GermeinIt doesn’t matter a pip because this is a joyful exploration of colours and rhythms, and shapes and forms that will entertain readers from 0 – 5 years and give beginner readers hours of fun as they navigate their way through the musical text.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about picture books when the words sing and the illustrations bombard the senses with tons of movement and bouncing detail. Somebody’s House does precisely that. A comfortable familiarity grew each time I revisited ‘somebody’s’ street yet I was delighted to continually find something new and quirky to smile at.

Anthea Stead’s exuberant use of acrylics, oil pastels and sgraffito* saturate the pages with a festival of colour and patterns. There is enough going on to attract young readers back for a second look again and again and the use of subtle visual clues not only adds to the whimsicality of the story but allows them to deduce who lives inside each house.

Known for her straightforward and honest way of sharing life’s truths with children, Germein has created a beautiful picture book that reinforces one’s sense of belonging and sense of place, while lightly alluding to the marvellous diversity of society and family types that exist all just metres away from one’s own front door.

Recommended for 3 – 6 year olds and anyone curious about their neighbours.

For those lucky enough to be living in Adelaide, pop along to the Lobethal Markets nestled in the Adelaide foothills on Sunday the 19th of May for the official launching of Somebody’s House.

Somebody's House Launch

• Sgraffito is a painting style that uses painted layers and ‘scratching’ techniques to create an image. This technique can be used on walls, ceramics and paper or canvas.

 Walker Books Australia May 2013



At the CBCA Conference recently, I met a wonderful new illustrator, Anthea Stead. Anthea has recently been accepted to The Style File and she agreed to visit Kids’ Book Capers to talk about her art.

Anthea, can you tell us about your journey as an illustrator?

I had an art teacher in high school who believed in me. She suggested I apply for the Sydney College of the Arts – BA in Visual Communication Design, and I was accepted.

After 4 long years there I started work as an art director of magazines. 15 years and a lot of magazines later both here and in London I realised I was always placing illustrations in my mags, books, whatever, wherever possible.

I had been trying to turn every job into an illustration job and the natural progression was to finally leave magazines. I had been illustrating for other magazines on the side for years and it wasn’t enough.

I have a good friend Mo Johnson, who has 3 books published (including latest release is Noah’s Garden), suggested I turn my hand to children’s books. She has been nudging me ever since and I am very grateful for that.

Besides magazine illustrations I have done a mural for the Powerhouse Museum – Ecologic Exhibition and also illustrations for a circus exhibition there, a couple of book covers for The Australian Film, Television and Radio School and a small kid’s zodiac booklet. My holy grail is a children’s book.

Where does your inspiration come from and what’s your favourite part of being an illustrator?

My inspiration comes from artists, magazines, people, my dog, my daughter, anything. I love all of it, though I do love ‘colouring in’.

You were shortlisted in the CYA comp last year. Can you tell us about what you entered and what the judges said about it?

I entered in the ‘The Legend of Arlee Farley’ option. It was an illustration of a dragon who had her nails painted! The judges were all very positive with a few things for me to work on which I hope I have now sorted.

You have just been accepted for the Style File. Can you tell us what the Style File is and about the process involved in submitting?

The Style file was another Holy Grail for me. It’s  a website where you can find an illustrator quickly and easily and apparently publishers use this site to find new talent. You have to submit work and wait and hope they let you in!

You submit eight pieces in order of preference. I sent in a copy of the mural and few random illustrations from books in my head.

How would you describe the style of your work?

I guess its colourful, sometimes humorous and playful. It depends on the job.

Can you tell us about your workspace?

Well I am truly lucky as we renovated a year ago and I now have my own room to ‘play’ in. I get to look out at the trees and sometimes deer and horses snort and neigh as they go by. Is there a children’s book in that! Its also very messy, so I just look out the window.