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

Friday 11 November 2022

Review: Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn Utzon is a child who sees the world through a very specific lens. Obsessed with building, creating and thinking outside the box, this is the story of how he harnesses both his own ideas and resilience in ways that don’t always make sense to others.

He even collected ideas from his orange peels at breakfast!

It’s also the story of how ultimately, he enters and wins a competition to design and build our iconic Sydney Opera House.

A quote from the adult Jørn Utzon opens the story, and it applies equally to his unique Opera House design and to the warmth and inspiration of this picture book:

The architect’s gift to society is to bring joy to the people from the surroundings they create. 

John Utzon's, Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination is written with the wonderful lilting cadence of repeated phrasing, alongside the anticipation of ‘expected’ surprises through language. Writer Coral Vass easily - and cleverly - takes us from Jørn's youth to adulthood with an elegant economy of words, deftly explaining all the while how his creativity is nurtured and grown.

We see so many ways in which young Jørn could potentially be thwarted and give up, but he obviously is not and does not (in the long term, at least!). Other people’s opinions of his work aren’t always kind, but it seems that Jørn is able to believe in himself and his dreams enough to follow through on his ideas, regardless of what others think – which is perhaps a life lesson for us all.

Nicky Johnston’s pencil illustrations are gorgeous as ever, divinely expressive and perfect for this work. The cover gives us a clear indication of what’s inside, with its hand-drawn lettering and young Jørn happily clutching compass, pencil and ruler. The front endpapers with their torn pictures depict orange peels, shapes, buildings, flowers, shells, and patterns that eventually all contribute to the design of the building that we know and love. My very favourite illustration is of the fist-pumping Jørn when he finally creates his masterpiece. It’s pure joy.

The back endpapers contain a beautifully rendered pencil timeline of Utzon’s life, which offers useful information for school projects and research. And of course, to provide the impetus to look further into this interesting and colourful life.

A wonderful true story. Highly recommended.

Title: Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination
Author: Coral Vass
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
Publisher: EK, $24.99
Publication Date: October 2022
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781922539144
For ages: 4 - 8
Type: Picture Book