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

Thursday 8 June 2017

Review: Whatcha Building?

A fantastic new offering from two remarkable talents in the world of picture books, Andrew Daddo and Stephen Michael King.

Kids have a natural fascination with how things are made. They love seeing tools and machines digging, cutting, banging and creating. And most of all, they dream about using those tools themselves to build something amazing.

Little Davey Durak stops each afternoon to see the construction at the old milk bar on the corner. He asks Big Bruce the Builder for some scrap wood. He takes it home, and returns the next day for some more. Then some more. What is he building with it?

Bruce imagines all the things Davey could be creating with his wood. A tree house? A boat? A billy cart? A skate ramp? But each time he asks, Davey just smiles and walks off, carrying a long bit here and a short bit there. Until Bruce just has to find out what Davey’s been building…

The illustrations in this book are delightful. Stephen Michael King’s trademark little people with their expressive dot eyes bring the story to life. I love the typically Australian Big Bruce the Builder with his singlet, hat and beard. The layered collage effect is really striking and suits the story perfectly, adding to the feel of constructing everything piece by piece.

The book also has an environmental message. The old-fashioned timber milkbar is being pulled down in favour of a new, modern building. What does this mean for the community? The imagery shows the dichotomy between the tightly packed high-rise city (cleverly depicted with recycled materials), and the little wooden milkbar standing by itself, with a lone cockatoo watching over it. It makes you consider both the positive and negative effects of modernisation.

Of course, younger readers will mainly just be interested in the diggers and tools and all the different things you can build with bits of wood (and what is Davey building, anyway?). But it’s also great to have that additional layer of community and modernisation to discuss with older readers.

I hope we can see more of this duo working together in future!

Title: Whatcha Building?
Author: Andrew Daddo
Illustrator: Stephen Michael King 
Publisher: ABC Books, $24.99
Publication Date: 22 May 2017 
Format: Hard Cover 
ISBN: 9780733334153
For ages: 2 – 6 
Type: Picture Book