'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 5 December 2009

Review: Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things

This beautiful new tome, edited by Juliet O'Conor, reveals all in its tempting subtitle: 'A celebration of Australian illustrated children's books'. And a celebration it is indeed.
O'Conor, who curates the State Library of Victoria's Children's Literature Collection of more than 100,000 home-grown and international books, has compiled an impressive and beautifully presented blend of Australian works dating from the early 19th Century to modern day.

Obviously inspired by the collection of books she's had the fortune to deal with during her career, the author wished to highlight the diversity of Australia's literary heritage for children. As O'Conor states in her Introduction, this compliation was not based purely on literary or artistic merit, but rather to juxtapose lesser known works with the more iconic.

Divided into five parts - schooldays, morality and family, home and land, journeys and other worlds, the author presents a delectable glimpse into both the artwork and nuance embedded in children's books over past two centuries, covering elements such as early educational texts, alphabet books, school papers and readers (teacher heaven!), character development and maturation, physical journeys, imaginary worlds and much more.

Along the way, readers are treated to author and book profiles, snippets of award-winning and notable books, and of course beautifully-laid out picture and text examples - of books both well-known and little-known.

What a treat to open and pore over a book that rends one away from current life and plummets us into the past. I can still smell the pages of the Coles Funny Picture Books my grandfather left me, depicted in this tome. I can giggle at the Blinky Bill and Gumbnut pictures and ogle over the retro paintings from Space Songs for Young Children - a book I had never laid eyes on until now.
But it would have to be Bottersnikes and Gumbles that brought tears to my middle-aged eyes - those fat little marshmallow Gumble pudges sitting atop a grumbly Bottersnike. Just precious stuff. And the conservation message of this 1967 is not lost on the modern day mind.

From May Gibbs to Ruth Park and Ethel Turner, Margaret Wild, Norman Lindsay, Mem Fox, Thoby Riddle and Pamela Allen, this is a book you will meander over for years to come. The references to stories and their history will entrance, and the meticulous research conducted by the author has allowed us to become as close as any everyday book lover can come to understanding the concepts behind these beautiful stories.

The book will also make anyone blatantly aware of the incredible literary talent inherent to Australia. For a country of such concise history, our collection, quality and diversity of children's literature is quite astounding, and something of which we should be immensely proud.

This book is a must-own for anyone who loves children's books, Australian or no.

Title: Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things
Author: Juliet O'Conor
Publisher: The Miegunyah Press, A$59.99RRP
Format: Hardcover with dustjacket

ISBN: 9780522856514
For ages: Adult
Type: Compendium, Non-Fiction