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

Monday 3 August 2020

Review: Little Lon

Little Lon refers to the area around Melbourne’s Little Lonsdale Street. This stunning picture book relates Marie Hayes’ joyous childhood memories in the multicultural community in which she lived, and the people whose lives grew and changed together with hers.

It is a life in a timber house with green wooden shutters, that faced a road where children played all day and adults stopped to speak to one another. Built in the 1850s, Marie’s mother lived there until the 1950s.

The front door opened into the sitting area, as did my childhood home. All the neighbours were European shopkeepers that lived above their stores. The Syrian fruit shop, Lebanese bootmaker, the watchmaker and jeweller in Cumberland Place, the Syrian taxi driver, and the Chinese cabinet makers, were the foundations from which this diverse area was built.  

Street food was always available. Hawkers spruiking their wares echoed through the air. A Yugoslavian man sold chestnuts in the winter and ice cream in the summer from his wagon. St Joseph’s was the school at the end of Marie’s street, where their routine rules included being inspected for lice.

It was a time of spinning tops, sailing boats on overflowing gutters, City Baths on Saturdays and places where Sunday roasts were cooked and ready for you by the time church was over.

This is not an emotive retelling of a life full of memories alone, but a history of a special place and time, a story behind the story, when migrants from all over the world, made Australia their home and were accepted no matter where they came from.

The exquisite illustrations with green the dominant colour, come from husband and wife team, Heather Potter and Mark Jackson. The images drag you back through time to feelings waiting to be re-experienced. Both end pages portray a map of Little Lonsdale Street and the surrounding area.

Amongst Potter’s long list of work, is the brilliant and award winning, Pearl Versus the World by Sally Murphy. Jackson has illustrated many picture books including The Beach Wombat and The Snow Wombat by Susannah Chambers.

Andrew Kelly is the Yarra Riverkeeper and author of Wilam: A Birrarung Story with Aunty Joy Murphy. This is Andrew’s second children’s book.

Title: Little Lon
Author: Andrew Kelly
Illustrator: Heather Potter & Mark Jackson
Publisher: Wild Dog Books, $24.99
Publication Date: July 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781742035970
For ages: 9+
Type: Junior Non fiction