Anyone who has read my reviews for a while now knows my deep love for three specific elements in a children’s picture book. Different. Vintage. Educational.
Of course you can stack on top of that: beautiful, moving, whimsical, among many other things, but for the purposes of this review, let’s stick to the top three – plus one other that’s personally dear to me – books on Australia.
In 1993, the Children’s Book Council of Australia honoured Eve Pownall by naming their Information Book category award after the author, recognizing her remarkable contributions to Australian literature. Just one of those contributions was The Australia Book.
First published by The House of John Sands in 1952, Black Dog Books released a facsimile copy in 2008 – and boy is it lovely. Large format, shiny red and yellow cover – the most fabulous illustrations by Margaret Senior, scattered throughout the book, interspersed with a relatively comprehensive text that takes us from The First Australians through to, well – 1952.
Pownall writes in snippets of information which flow surprisingly well for such an abridged tale of our country’s history. The text is totally approachable for its age (it soon turns 60) and children of all ages will be fascinated with these information pockets that highlight major people and events.
From settlement to the great explorers to war, through Federation and the establishment of the states and territories… on through the formation of farming land, towns and cities, to social changes, the marvels of the industrial revolution, the construction of iconic buildings and landmarks, invention and modern-day life, this is a compendium of bliss for anyone with even an inkling of adoration for history.
Me – I’m in heaven when I peruse this book. Even my very young son can appreciate the pages of The Australia Book – and I hope both he, and I and my entire family, can enjoy this book for another half-century. It certainly deserves a place in every Australian home.
When The Australia Book won the 1952 Children’s Book of the Year Award, it was described as ‘one of the most beautiful and original books ever published for children in Australia’, and that remains as true today as it was then.
Author: Eve Pownall
Illustrator: Margaret Senior
Publisher: Black Dog Books, A$34.99RRP
Publication Date: 1 May 2008
For ages: 8+
Type: Information Book, Junior Non-Fiction