Friday 11 October 2013

An Aussie Year

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Tina Snerling (Exisle Publishing)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-921966-24-8
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

An Aussie Year is a delightfully entertaining and informative journey across the months, seasons and places of Australia through the eyes of five children.

All Australian, the children who take us on this tour come from culturally diverse backgrounds. Ned’s family have lived in Australia for five generations. Zoe’s parents emigrated from Greece. Lily has a Chinese/Vietnamese background. Kirra is an Indigenous Australian. And Matilda’s family came from Ireland when she was a baby.

Each page opening illustrates a month in the year. And each month shows the activities, festivals and celebrations of the children. It reflects both the differences and similarities of the various cultural traditions.

The pictures are bold and bright and clear with cleverly set out, attractive pages. Six or seven scenes illustrate each month and the text snakes around them, through them, and in some cases, become part of them.

In January they swim, play frisby, have picnics, celebrate Tet (Vietnamese New Year), surf, watch the Australian Open, wear thongs, fish, slip-slop-slap, have school holidays, New Year’s Day and watch fireworks on New Year’s Day. All without crowding the page. And in January too, I learned that Australia Day is sometimes called Survival Day.

There is so much in this book that is representative of all Australian Children and families – it’s a wonderful melting pot of cultures that reflects Australia of today. All children will find plenty to relate too.

There’s a lot to learn as well. Some of the information is straightforward: “It’s Earth Hour. We turn off our lights for sixty minutes. (It’s because we want to save the planet).”

And some of the information is tucked away in clever sentences: “We paddle quickly away from box jelly fish.”

The humour is subtle, in both illustration and text. In March, on Clean-Up Australia Day, Zoe is vacuuming grass in the shape of Australia. Then, in September: “It’s Father’s Day. Dad reads the paper, watches the footy and goes to the hardware store.”

The last page has a map of Australia with more snippets of information and humour and the endpapers – front and back – area a wonderful montage of scenes from throughout the book.

I really loved this deceptively simple picture book. There is so much to see, read, discover and discuss. It will be thoroughly enjoyed by readers of all ages and is a celebration of all that happens in our diverse Australian lives.

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