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

Monday 25 June 2012

Review: Collecting Colour

Collecting Colour the CBCA Picture Book of the Year 2009 is a wonderful celebration of the indigenous women’s tradition of weaving in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia.

Through the sharing of traditional culture two girls – Rose and Olive – not only learn about weaving but also about fishing, cooking and about making connections with the older women, who spent time teaching and supporting them.

Rose and Olive have an amazing adventure with the women from Olive’s family collecting materials to make baskets, mats and bags from pandanus leaves. The girls learn from Olive’s mother and aunty how to collect, find and prepare the natural materials that will be used for dyeing the leaves and weaving. The girls are then able to make beautifully coloured mats to show their new found skills.

Kylie Dunstan uses rich descriptive language and textural illustrations to convey a deep respect and understanding of the people and the land that she has spent time living with.

This story appeals to so many of the senses:

- Touch of the spiky pandanus and the soft stringy bark or the ferocious bites of green ants.

- Taste of the sweet bark like gum or white barramundi meat.

- Sight of the colours of the plants needed for dyeing and the colours of the handmade paper; ochre yellow and red to many shade of green from olive to bright green.

- Sound of the women’s laughter as they fall over when the roots of the plant finally give.

The vibrant colours and handmade papers that are used bring the illustrations to life. My eyes continuously tell me to rub my hand across the page so I can feel the texture of the baskets and mats.

I found this story so inspiring; I needed to have the textural experience of Rose and Olive. So when I went to Alice Springs and Uluru I bought several baskets from the indigenous female artists of the Tjanpi desert weavers. While these baskets are from a different region to this story I wanted to share the experience back with the students at my school. The children wanted to touch and feel these baskets and understand the process of how they are made.

Collecting Colour like any great book it opens another world to the reader and creates a want to experience this world.

- this review by Leanne Barrett

Collecting Colour
Author/Illustrator: Kylie Dunstan
Publisher: Lothian Children’s Books (Hachette Australia), $28.99 RRP
Publication Date: 2008
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780734410221
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book