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This blog intends to inspire the love of reading and promote appreciation of art through the world of illustrated children’s books. It is a collaborative project with the Imaducation Inc team, whose members share an interest in children’s books.

Here we publish reviews of books, stories of visiting picture book museums and exhibitions, discuss children’s book industry events. For the most part the blog focuses on the work of authors, illustrators and publishers of children’s books.

Click on the “Original Illustrations Gallery” icon  and see our collection of original artworks, drawings and sketches by great Australian artists and illustrators: Robert Ingpen, Ann James, Julie Vivas, Dee Huxley, Anne Spudvilas, Anna Pignataro, Stephen Michael King, Naomi Lewis. We also collect works of Russian origin, for example by Alexei Reipolsky and G.A.V. Traugot, as well as the curiosities such as illustrations by Harry Reade, an Australian cartoonist and an ardent communist who for a while resided in Russia where he happened to illustrate some children’s books.

The gallery will be updated regularly with images of the new acquisitions.

 


Thanks for stepping by,
Natalia Bragaru

Is anyone missing winter like we do?

This week-end we have landed in Sydney airport and 40°+  degree heat knocked us right off our feet! We’ve come back from the awesomely cold gorgeous winter, from the majestic snowed under forest and the merry winter fun. Yearning to go back and with my aircon set on its coldest I am flipping through yet another winter themed book:

This is a collection of folk rhymes in Russian, great for very young kids (or the young at heart). They are similar to Mother Goose nursery rhymes in the English-language literature tradition, but are rooted in Russian heritage and all have connection to winter.

What makes this book special is its illustrations by Yury Vasnetsov (1900 1973), a celebrated Soviet graphic artist, a distant relative of the famous Russian painter Victor Vasnetsov (1848 – 1926).

Yury illustrated more than a hundred books, including Russian fairy tales, rhymes, folk stories and works by such literary luminaries as Pushkin, Marshak, Chukovsky. He studied under Kazimir Malevich (the famous creator of the “Black Square”) and has been influenced by Suprematism and Primitivism movements.  He has then worked in Detgiz publishing house alongside other masters of illustration of the Soviet era – Lebedev, Charushin, Pahomov. Vasnetsov’s highly recognisable style is influenced by Russian folk and popular art; his illustrations have enchanted readers of all walks of life and ages. We hope you too enjoy Yury Vasnetsov’s atmospheric and very “Russian” winter: 

For more winter reading fun click on “Wintertime” tag on the blog’s homepage or follow the links below:

“A Treasury of Wintertime Tales”

“Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht”

“Christmas Treasury” by Jan Brett

Vintage “Christmas Treasury” by Jan Brett

This Christmas Treasury is an old favourite of ours, loved by kids and adults alike. Jan Brett’s fans and critics agree that “noone can render snow and Scandinavian winter more gorgeously”[1]. She illustrates with meticulous attention to detail.  Whether it is nature, interiors of traditional dwellings, traditional costumes and characters – people, animals or trolls – her illustrations are an immersive  experience. In an introduction to her Christmas Treasury, Jan Brett says:

“Travelling has always been an inspiration. I went to Norway to look at trolls, but they were very elusive…I did visit the reindeer for The Wild Christmas Reindeer and returned several years later to look at sleighs for The Night Before Christmas…The traditions in each country I visit amaze and delight me. I love to use them as a starting point and the details become an intricate part of the background as the story unfolds”.

Wishing everyone a Merry Reading Christmas!

The Mitten is an adapted Ukrainian folktale about a lost mitten that houses several forest animals.  The border illustrations anticipate the developments as the main character Nicki searches for his lost mitten.

The Wild Christmas Reindeer  story is set at the North Pole. Teeka has the task of preparing Santa’s reindeer for pulling the sleigh on Christmas Eve. But the reindeer get anxious and won’t co-operate. Teeka has to find a way to complete the challenge…

Trouble with Trolls is set in the snowy Scandinavian winter.  Treva and her dog Tuffi must get to the other side of Mount Baldy, to visit Treva’s cousin. A group of trolls start following them and are on a mission to get Tuffi!  Treva must outsmart the greedy trolls and get herself and her dog safely to their destination.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is a traditional Christmas song. The music score for the song is included and Jan Brett’s illustrations are a delight!

The Hat is a companion to The Mitten Lisa pulled out her winter clothes and put them outside to air. The wind blew one of her stockings off.  Hedgehog becomes stuck in a sock and wears it as a hat.  All animals make fun of him at first, but then admit this idea is not bad at all…

Christmas Trolls characters make a comeback from The Trouble with Trolls. This time trolls want to steal Christmas toys and food. Clever Treva teaches them a lesson and shows them how to have fun, share and give!

Concluding the Treasury is a classic poem of C. Moore, The Night Before Christmas, in Jan Brett’s visual interpretation:

For more winter reading fun click on “Wintertime” tag on the blog’s homepage or the links below:

“A Treasury of Wintertime Tales”

“Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht”

“Winter Folk Rhymes” illustrated by Y. Vasnetsov

Continue reading “Vintage “Christmas Treasury” by Jan Brett”

“Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht” – for all who look forward to Christmas!

What I love best about travelling is accidental discoveries, for example, stumbling upon this beauty in a bookshop in Düsseldorf downtown:

As it turns out, “Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht” (“Silent Night, Happy Night”) is fresh off the press (published just a few months ago) and is a delightful picture book with no words and of universal appeal. It is for everyone who is looking forward to Christmas!

A merry caravan pulls through the glittering winter landscape. Passing through the snowfields it enters the City preparing for Christmas festivities, will it stop here? No, the cars move on as someone special is eagerly awaiting their arrival. In front of a cozy brightly lit winter hut up the hill mother and daughter are greeting their loved ones. The merry company prepares for Christmas celebration. They party so hard that the morning light finds them all exhausted in a sleeping heap right on the floor.

This book’s creator Julie Völk is a young illustrator of Austrian descent presently based in Germany. She has only created a few books so far but her talent as illustrator, her individuality and wit has already been recognised. In 2014, the German Academy for Children’s and Youth Literature in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair awarded Julie Völk the Serafina Award for young talent in illustration. The Academy also named “Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht” book of the month in December 2017.

Enjoy!

For more winter reading fun click on “Wintertime” tag on the blog’s homepage or the links below:

“A Treasury of Wintertime Tales”

“Christmas Treasury” by Jan Brett

“Winter Folk Rhymes” illustrated by Y. Vasnetsov

 

A Treasury of Wintertime Tales

A Treasury of Wintertime Tales is excellent Christmas advent reading for children of all ages. Edited by Noel Daniel and produced by TASCHEN this book is similar to their other creations[1], being a perfect blend of engaging stories and exquisite illustrations.

The thirteen tales, written between 1822 and 1972, reflect storytelling traditions from different parts of the world including Christmas tales, imaginary winter lands adventures and real world stories of winter fun and New Year celebrations.  Anyone who grew up with cold winters shall relate to the story of lost mittens in “Too Many Mittens” or the excitement of days off from school due to heavy snowfalls in “Winter and the Children”. “Nine Days to Christmas” tells of Las Posadas, the Mexican Christmas celebration, whereas “Moy Moy” of the excitement of children preparing for Chinese New Year and “Children of the Northlights” of Sami people brother and sister who brave the harsh Scandinavian winter.

One of my personal favourites is “The Red Horse” telling of Peter, the young boy whose Christmas gift was a traditional wooden horse called the Dala (made in Dalarna region in Sweden). Peter wishes (oh, so much!) to ride the red horse. He is stubborn and wouldn’t let go of his wish and one day to his delight the little horse comes to life. The horse takes Peter on an adventure ride of his lifetime and they finally meet the woodcarver who made the red horse. Many happy days and happy rides pass till the boy realises that he loves his dear Mother more than he loves his little red horse and that it’s time for him to go home…

The stories for this Treasury have been chosen not only to reflect the diverse winter storytelling traditions but for their inspiring artwork. Its authors and illustrators come from all over the world – Hungary, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Russia, Mexico and America. Many of these artists received Caldecott Medal for the artwork featured in these stories.

What would be your child’s favourite?

The Cowboy’s Christmas, written and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund (1972)

 A Trip to Gingerbread Land, written and illustrated by Einar Nerman (1939)

Winter and the Children, by Hilde Hoffmann, illustrated by Beatrice Braun-Fock (1959)

Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida, illustrated by Marie Hall Ets (1957)

Marilyn and the Snow Children, written and illustrated by Sibylle von Olfers (1905)

The Friendly Beasts, by Laura Nelson Baker, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov (1957)

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith (1912: text 1822)

The Red Horse, written and illustrated by Elsa Moeschlin (1935)

The Twelve Days of Christmas, written by anonymous and illustrated by Ilonka Karasz (1949)

Moy Moy, written and illustrated by Leo Politi (1960)

Too Many Mittens, by Florence Slobodkin, illustrarted by Louis Slobodkin (1958)

Children of the Northlights, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (1935)

The Ballad of the Snow King, by Tadeusz Kubiak, illustrated by Zbigniew Rychlicki (1968)

For more winter reading fun click on “Wintertime” tag on the blog’s homepage or the links below:

“Christmas Treasury” by Jan Brett

“Stille Nacht, fröhliche Nacht” by Julie Volk

“Winter Folk Rhymes” illustrated by Yury Vasnetsov

Continue reading “A Treasury of Wintertime Tales”

Shaun Tan “The Red Tree”

Shaun Tan is one of the great Australian authors and illustrators whose work I fell in love with at first sight. The sight of this book:

Few potent words and spreads of intriguing pictures, I picked it up at random from a bookstore shelf and having read it knew in an instant that it can’t go back on that shelf. As many other Shaun Tan creations (think “The Arrival”, “The Lost Thing”, “Tales from Outer Suburbia”) this book strikes as not quite the one for young kids, perhaps more geared towards awakening the child inside us adults.

Main character is a little girl. The story depicts one day of her life, a day of making sense of seemingly unfriendly, somewhat eerie and alienating world around her. The morning is a bleak one, the day goes on from bad to worse till finally it comes to a startling change: to a clear vision of hope and a beautiful new beginning.

Don’t we all know how sometimes it feels that “nobody understands”, that the world is “without sense or reason”, that we “wait and wait and wait, but nothing ever happens” (mid-life crisis anyone?)… It is all too easy to loose sight of hope. But hope is there, it is “just as you imagined it would be” and “The Red Tree” drives this point home in a bold and beautiful visual way:

Talking about creation of “The Red Tree” Shaun Tan writes of his fascination with “word-picture enigmas” with no traditional narrative. This lack of sequential narrative is “something a picture book is ideal for”, he notes, “you can open it at any page, go backwards or forwards, and spend as much time as you wish with each image.”¹

If you have not yet discovered the power of Shaun Tan’s creativity, “The Red Tree” might be a great start.

Continue reading “Shaun Tan “The Red Tree””

Halloween with Robert Ingpen

I grew up with only a vague idea about Halloween and what it means and celebrates. It took me a while to get used to this annual ‘occasion’ upon moving to Australia… Ghosts, freaky costumes, impersonations of the dead, the occult origins of the whole thing… Hmm! Not quite my idea of fun and I don’t care much for the trick-or-treat lollies. So I have long written it all off for myself until one wonderful encounter with a truly amazing picture book, written by Charise Neugebauer and brilliantly designed and illustrated by none other than the Australian national treasure, Robert Ingpen:

1-cover

Having read its engaging verse and instantly drawn into the performance of Robert Ingpen’s art and design I have finally reconciled myself with Halloween’s existence even if just as an inspiration for this dazzling book!

“You are Invited
midnight to dawn”

…so begins a roller-coaster of startles, scares and horrors told in a language vivid and engaging, its visual story so captivating that by the end all you’d want is to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

“Ghosts will fly north and east.
A celebration for the best of beasts.
South and west, bones move slow.
Tombstones call to all who know”…

To all who know that I am a huge fan of Robert Ingpen’s work – this book is one of the many reasons why. A lot has been said in this blog about his illustrations, but part the rave about this book is its most unusual design. It is built with 2 grand posters attached to the front and end papers and unfolding to 4 times the size of the book. The reader unfolds those posters then watches every page-spread turned into center stage at the performance of Halloween Circus at the graveyard lawn! The action spills out from pages to large poster spaces, every turn of a page uncovering something unexpected, unpredictable, something unorthodox.

2-poster-unfolding

3-poster-unfolding

“A black cat stares an evil smile.
A small child dreams for a little while.
The fog rolls in. The child is gone.
There’s a Halloween circus
at the graveyard lawn.”

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I love illustrations references to some all-time-favourite book characters and fairy folk spilling out of the Halloween pumpkin and scattered across the pages. Petrified Pinocchio, the White Rabbit clutching the ’31 October’ calendar page, the unicorn, the dragon, the griffon, the Gnomes of Robert Ingpen and those less obvious allusions (do I see one to the Wizard of Oz and the Treasure Island?) as well as appearances from the other books illustrated by Robert Ingpen.

My 9 year old loves “Halloween Circus” read slowly, in a low eerie voice, with a good dose of startling sound effects. And I oblige happily. Then we both get disappointed at the final announcement that:

“The sun is rising. Our fun must fade.
But we will return for the next year’s parade.”

“So until we meet again next year,
Think of us without fear.
Ghosts are dreams. We’re nothing more.
And without your dreams, life is such a bore.”

An opportune moment to go back to the title page and be invited again, “midnight to dawn”:

6-poster-unfolded

This book is out of print, but can be found in local libraries.

Happy Horrible Halloween Read-Aloud!

The CBCA 2016 Book of the Year Awards

On Friday, 19th August 2016, The Children’s Book Council of Australia presented its Book of the Year Awards in 6 traditional categories: picture book, early childhood book, book for younger readers, older readers, information book and award for book illustration for an emerging artist.

This year the CBCA Book of the Year Awards celebrate its 70th anniversary. The 2016 Awards Ceremony has been organised with the assistance of the CBCA NSW branch headed by the woman of extraordinary passion for children’s literature and books Gail Erskine. The CBCA Patron, the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove attended the Awards Ceremony and presented the Book of the Year awards to all winners.

Lady Cosgrove, the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the CBCA NSW Branch President Gail Erskine - at the 2016 CBCA Book of the Year Awards
Lady Cosgrove, the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the CBCA NSW Branch President Gail Erskine, at the CBCA 2016 Book of the Year Awards.

In her heartfelt talk the CBCA Deputy Chair Margaret Hamilton spoke of the early days of  the Awards, when in  the late 1940’s  female winners were presented with a camellia bloom whereas male winners were given a handshake. The CBCA and the Book of the Year Awards have since gone from strength to strength. Today, thanks to the CBCA’s Awards Foundation efforts the winners receive the monetary award as well as the well-deserved recognition; the $70,000 cash prize pool this year is the highest in the Awards’ history (and a fitting figure to mark its anniversary).

Prior to launching into the announcement of the 2016 winners, the CBCA made another presentation, which fit this occasion perfectly: the Life-Time Achievement Award to Robert Ingpen.

R Ingpen - presented Award
Robert Ingpen accepting the CBCA Life-Time Achievement Award presented by the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove

In my world Robert Ingpen needs no introduction, but if you are just discovering this person and his creative powers please check out the gallery of artworks and the book reviews in this blog (I absolutely admire Robert Ingpen’s work and so it features prominently here).

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Robert Ingpen addressing the audience at the CBCA 2016 Book of the Year Awards

Robert Ingpen turns 80 this year and the CBCA is not the only one recognising his extraordinary achievements. National Library of Australia is publishing “Wonderlands: The Illustration Art of Robert Ingpen” (out in October 2016), whereas The Metropolis Gallery in his hometown Geelong in Victoria organises the exhibition “Robert Ingpen’s Storybook Art” featuring about 80 original illustrations and paintings by the artist (15-29 October 2016).

Following the presentation of the Life-Time Achievement Award, the CBCA’s Patron the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove announced and presented the Book of the Year Awards to the 2016 winners (full list of short-listed and honour books is at www.cbca.org.au/winners-2016):

Winners
Winners of the 2016 Book of the Year Awards: Morris Gleitzman, Fiona Wood, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Anna Walker, Allison Colpoys and Robert Ingpen
  1. Picture Book

flight

“Flight” by Nadia Wheatley, illustrated by Armin Greder

  1. Early Childhood

mr-huff-anna-walker

“Mr Huff” by Anna Walker

  1. Younger Readers

soon-gleitzman

“Soon” by Morris Gleitzman

  1. Older Readers

cloudwish

“Cloudwish” by Fiona Wood

  1. The Eve Pownall Award for Information Book

Lennie the Legend

“Lennie the Legend” by Stephanie Owen Reeder

  1. The Crichton Award for Illustration (emerging artists)

under-water-fancy-dress-parade

“The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade” by Allison Colpoys

My personal favourite (and that of my son) that did not win but made it to the Honour List in the Eve Pownall Award category for information book is:

Phasmid Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (1)

“Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect” by  Rohan Cleave, illustrated by Coral Tulloch

Ronah Cleave
Rohan Cleave accepting the Honour Book certificate presented by the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove

Congratulations to all the winners and happy reading to all of us who love a good children’s book!

Lastly, can not resist to share this great moment in my life: meeting the Master, the man whose work, energy and passion I admire, whose books I love and hope to spread that love… One of my greatest dreams come true:

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“Unplugged!” by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Dee Huxley (Margaret Hamilton Books: 1999)

Cover

“Unplugged!” is a special book. It is the first published work of the great Australian children’s author, the one and only Glenda Millard. I have been fortunate to meet Glenda and the publisher of “Unplugged!” Margaret Hamilton and get an insight into this book’s creation from the perspective of both of these amazing women. I was lucky to also get hold of an original “Unplugged!” illustration by Dee Huxley. Later, two of my best friends who appreciate good books fell in love with “Unplugged!” so much that they too ended up buying an original Dee Huxley illustration each. So the three of us now own a ‘family’ of fantastic “Unplugged!” artworks (see images in the Gallery).

The main delight of “Unplugged!” is its original story told with Glenda Millard’s signature wit, delightful juxtapositions and clever turn of phrase. On a beautiful summer day, courtesy of two family pets – a dog called Fritz and a yabby called Murray – an embarrassing incident happens to Grandma who is taking a bath in an outdoor tub in the garden.

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Grandma attempts to remain dignified no matter what while circumstances seem to work against her taking her from bad to worse state of embarrassment…

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The book’s illustrations are as delightful as its text. The story’s protagonists were inspired by real-life characters – Glenda Millard’s own grandparents and pets and herself as a child. She did not, however, have any influence over how the pictures should ultimately look like; she had not even met Dee Huxley prior to the book’s launch. Yet when Glenda finally saw the illustrations she had been greatly surprised, she said, by Dee’s vision, which aligned so closely with Glenda’s own visual memories of her childhood! When I mentioned owning the original illustration from the page below Glenda Millard exclaimed: “That’s my Grandpa and I on that couch!” and added that her grandparents’ house and the garden had the very ambiance that Dee Huxley captured in her illustrations. I find this ability of great artists to get inside the author’s head truly amazing!

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In addition to entertaining, “Unplugged” celebrates the simple pleasures of countryside living. On a hot summer day Grandpa and Katie harvest honey from beehives, chewing on lumps of waxy honeycomb, Grandpa enjoys a small glass of parsnip wine and has a nap in the refreshingly cool cellar, Grandma takes bath in the garden beneath the plum tree, singing songs to cicadas’ accompaniment, while Fritz is in search of a quiet place for a nap. For afternoon tea all enjoy Grandma’s scones with freshly harvested honey… It reminds me of my own grandparents, their house, the smells in grandpa’s cellar and all sorts of summertime delights. Looking at the busy and rushed city life of mine I find it increasingly difficult to find space for appreciating life’s simple and small pleasures, for enjoying it all at a slower pace. Reading and re-rereading “Unplugged!” every now and again gives me a little bit of that space and an opportunity (no matter how brief) to slow down, smile and remember that life is not all about stressful jobs and endless commitments… This proves again that picture books aren’t only good for children and could and should be enjoyed by all, regardless of the age.

p 3-4

p 11-12

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“Unplugged” is now out of print and hard to come by but is certainly worth a hunt. Check at your local library or buy a used copy (at the time of writing this post 2 books in ‘very good’ condition were listed on abebooks.com). Happy reading!

“Pinerolo” Picture Book Cottage and the Person Behind It

A few hour’s drive from Sydney to Blue Mountains takes you to Blackheath, a small town with an altitude of about 1,000 metres, near the Mountain’s highest point. A further short drive along a narrow, winding road off the main street of Blackheath into Shipley Plateau brings one to an idyllic and tranquil kind of place set amidst the mighty old pine trees and surrounded by lush, colourful gardens.

Pinerolo

This place is “Pinerolo”, the children’s book cottage run by Margaret and Max Hamilton and famous for its collection of over a thousand Australian picture books and a great (and largest in NSW) exhibition of original children’s book illustrations by celebrated Australian artists. Watercolours and pastels by Dee Huxley, Patricia Mullins’s tissue paper collages, Stephen Michael King’s watercolours and drawings, works by Julie Vivas, Noela Young, mixed media works by John Winch, an original book cover illustration by Robert Ingpen, a small but resplendent picture of an owl by Shaun Tan… and much, much more… It’s picture books lover’s heaven on earth!

Pinerolo Art

The four close-up illustrations shown above (left to right) are works by John Winch, Donna Rawlins, Noela Young and Julie Vivas.

The illustrations have been collected by Margaret during her life-time career in the children’s books industry. She has been a librarian, a bookseller, director at the large publishing house (Hodder & Stoughton), an editor, reviewer and consultant. Together with husband Max, they established and ran a highly successful independent publishing business “Margaret Hamilton Books”, specialising in picture books. She has served as the National President of Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) during 1990-1992 and was instrumental in establishing the CBCA’s Awards Foundation, which has since financed CBCA’s annual Book of the Year Awards. For her contribution to children’s literature Margaret received a number of important industry awards as well as the Order of Australia.

While running her own publishing business Margaret was ‘the face’ of Australian picture books at the international Bologna Book Fair (which she visited 23 times) promoting Australian titles to overseas publishers and audiences. “Margaret Hamilton Books”, successful both in Australia and internationally, produced many award-winning books, which are now sadly out of print. Sadly, because so many of them pack a punch! I laughed out loud reading “Unplugged!”, cried real tears reading “My Dog”, longed for my grandparents reading “Grandpa”, marvelled at the beauty of “The Sea-Breeze Hotel”, admired the design of the “Dinosaur Encore”… (check back later for separate reviews on these books).

Kids are bound to fall under the spell of Pinerolo too… It took some time for ours to put down their IPads before we started seeing this, much to our delight:

Pinerolo Books

And once ‘the day has passed as all days must’, kids fallen asleep and the autumn night grown cold, “Pinerolo” turned into this perfect place to chill and talk the night away with best friend… staring into the fire, breathing the smells of burning wood and pine cones, listening to the wind outside, sipping our favourite red…

Pinerolo night

If I had to choose one word to describe “Pinerolo” it would be – special and the word describing Margaret Hamilton would be – inspiring. Although officially retired now, she hasn’t really stopped. Apart from running “Pinerolo” cottage including its artists’ and authors’ residency programs and picture books creation workshops, she now also writes picture books (check back later for review of “B is for Bedtime”). She still serves on the National Board of CBCA, now as Deputy Chair, and is involved in the CBCA’s Blue Mountains sub-branch and it is largely thanks to her that I am now able to help with some CBCA activities too. Thanks for the inspiration, Margaret!

“Pinerolo” is available to visit by appointment, check out www.pinerolo.com.au if interested in experiencing it yourself.

Robert Ingpen and Margaret Dunkle “A Thoughtful Way of Explaining Conservation to Children”

Even though this book was published almost 30 years ago, in 1987, its ideas on conservation are as relevant today if not a lot more than ever before. Its simple words accessible to children (co-authored by Robert Ingpen and Margaret Dunkle) and striking visual messages of Ingpen’s illustrations explore conservation issues and ways of keeping the world “sound, safe and sensible”.

Ingpen Conservation Title

Here are a few spreads from the book, showing how words accompanied by Ingpen’s masterfully designed illustrations communicate powerful messages on the world’s conservation needs in ways, which children can understand.

The illustration below called “Dodo bird first seen 1599, last seen 1681” accompanies the text on wild life protection. Its last statement concludes that “sometimes we make the wrong choice, or leave our choice too long and we lose something forever”…

Conservation Ingpen 2

The following picture called “Chemical warfare on pests” is a cleverly designed and I believe self-explanatory image (hat off to the aptness of Ingpen’s visual messages!)

Conservation Ingpen 1

St. George fighting the dragon below is an allegory of “having to make [conservation] choices: decisions between right and wrong, good and bad”.  The traditional image of the saint, as if transposed from an ancient icon painting, is juxtaposed with the modern-day airplane charging forward, symbolising past, present and future and the all-time relevance of conservation concerns.

Conservation Ingpen 3

The following picture is called “New butterfly and old instrument of navigation”…This one might potentially leave little readers (and older ones too) pondering the ideas it is meant to convey. My clue to reading this image was this: “The best of everything is always there if we know how to look for it”…  Readers are asked to think about what is important and worth preserving, whether it is “very old or very new, strangely complex or deceptively simple”.

Conservation 4

There are fourteen more spreads in this book exploring threats to humpback whales, benefits and dangers of nuclear power, the need for heritage conservation, preservation of wilderness and living resources and more. It ends with reproductions of several posters that Ingpen created for National Conservation Strategy of Australia, each focusing on an environmental area in need of protection: forests, wildlife, national parks, coastal dunes, mangroves, rivers. The last poster on alternative energy sources notes that “nature’s energy cannot be lost and the sun and winds and tides are always with us”…

Our children will evidently inherit the Earth, whose environmental well-being is seriously shaken. It would be up to them to continue our conservation efforts to save it for generations to come. That’s why I believe books like this one will stay relevant and be good to read to every child, read often and from a young age.