Five years ago while the teacher-librarian at Red Hill Primary, Canberra, I invited a local author about whom I had heard good things to come on an author visit to talk about her popular ‘Riley’ picture books. Elegant Tania McCartney walked into my library and we were instantly friends. The children were entranced by her presentation (one little boy wrote and illustrated his own Riley book the next day) and all of us looked forward to seeing more from this talented woman.
In the last few years I have watched with great pleasure as Tania’s work has grown and blossomed into books in which her creativity has gone to greater and greater heights.
During the process of this latest (and greatest) of her books it has been such a pleasure for so many of us to feel as though we had something to contribute as Tania sought opinions and feedback on ideas she was developing. Little did I know that my own granddaughters were going to provide inspiration for some of her illustrations!
Australia Illustrated takes readers – both children and adults – on a virtual trip around Australia to examine the beauties, nature, culture, icons and quirks of each of our states.
With a glorious binding to complete it, the book begins with some pages of general information about Australia as a whole. The double page spread underlining our diversity is marvellous but each page is a revelation and a delight. Tania’s sense of fun comes through in each new vista. The double page ‘café style blackboard menu’ that details so many of our iconic favourite foods is just one example and one of my personal favourites.
After this overview of our country we move from state to state seeing children from all over with their own unique local flavours and settings. Each new state’s pages is heralded with a detailed and stylistically fun map and already I have had children (and grown ups) delightedly pointing out places they have been or know.
The virtual trip takes in all that is special, unique or iconic of the individual states illustrated in such a glorious fashion that this will prove a book to which to return over and over to continually discover new details.
The overriding emotion evoked by this armchair travelogue of our great country is one of joy in all that we, as Australians one and all, and our beautiful land have to offer. I have already sent off two copies to my Welsh friends, who recently visited and were entranced by the very small snippet they saw, for their grandchildren to savour. The appeal to adults is validated by the fact that Tim, Welsh grandad, had to have it prised out of his hands to be put away for the children!
In a social climate when we are eager to encourage our young readers to embrace all that is good about our nation – the people, the diversity, the beauty and the traditions – this is a book which resonates with a patriotic pride in its purest sense.
This is a definite ‘must have’ for your library collection indeed but also for your personal bookshelves and for you to share with your friends overseas. I know ours will be treasured and enjoyed for years to come.
Australians all, let us rejoice! That we have author/illustrators of Tania’s calibre is indicative of what we have to offer to a world too often troubled with negative and destructive images.
Congratulations Tania on a simply superb creation. Roll on the lavish praise and recognition for a truly remarkable book!
Riley’s red planes flying over Red Hill library!
Postscript from Tim: As the Welsh grandad referred to, but not because I’m he, I would endorse the review wholeheartedly. As a visitor, it gives a bite-sized introduction to Australia that informs but doesn’t overwhelm. I loved it and look forward eagerly to being able to share with my grandies!