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

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Review: This is Australia

I just have to tell you how chuffed I was when I learned more about Miroslav Sasek's books and found out he'd written one on Australia.

He's been to Australia! How cool is that?

Yes, this is Sasek Down Under, and his This is Australia edition is just as stunning and plentiful as his previous books - stacked with fabulous observances on the life and scenes of our beautiful country.

I mean, this guy just gets it. Even in 1970, he understood the unique perspective of our homeland - of its cultural wash of people from all over the world, of its contrasts, of its unique flora and fauna well beyond the koala and gum tree.

He just got it. And you can see in this book, released right as the 60s ended, the influence of the times on his illustrations... people are looking far less, umm.... 50s and far more 70s - in their clothing, their hair, even the colours Sasek uses.

He starts This is Australia by taking us in a [Qantas] plane across Sydney Harbour - with a little bit of history on Captain Cook and a few facts that make up Sydney (incidentally, in all Sasek's books, updated facts and figures are used either directly in the text or as an addendum at the back of the book).

Through the pages we meet streets, buildings, school boys, sailors, the animals, street signs, emblems, shoppers, gardens, architecture - covering every state and territory. There is even a man riding a kangaroo and a dog holding The Australian newspaper in its mouth!

And, most incredibly, Sasek also draws the most iconic symbol of my childhood that I recently travelled and took my own children just to see - the clockwork music display of the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle - in the Cat and Fiddle Arcade in Hobart, Tasmania... And Sasek has drawn it as it was when I was a child - in open hair with a fountain in the middle and park benches around the sides (the square is now fully enclosed, with a Muffin Break and Wendy's cluttering the space).

Thank you, Mr S.

Australia may be young, but Sasek showcases our country with an artistic and cultural history and integrity it well deserves - well beyond snorkling, throwing prawns on the barbie and crocodile wrestling. The book shows Australia's tiniest idiosyncrasies and incredible diversity - as only Sasek knows how.

A must-have for Aussies and everyone else, too.

Title: This is Australia
Author/Illustrator: M Sasek
Publisher: Universe Publishing, $34.95RRP
Publication Date: 1970/2009
Format: Hardcover with dustjacket
ISBN: 9780789318541
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book