Sunday 13 July 2014

The Bush Book Club

The Bush Book Club by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ben Wood (Omnibus Books)
HB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-014-9
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

All the animals in the bush love to read. They read in different places and about different things, but they all have reading in common. All, that is, except Bilby. He hates to read. He cannot sit still long enough and so Bilby is the only animal not in the Bush Book Club.
This is a wonderfully worded story. The rhythm of each page and the overall structure is satisfying to read aloud. For instance, the stories Crocodile reads make him cry. 'He sniffled and snuffled, sobbed and sighed.'
The illustrations which are bright, lively and humorous, do more than just accompany the text, they enhance the story. While the Bush Book Club meets Bilby plays on his own. 'He did a headstand. He did a handstand. A somersault. And two cartwheels.' All of these actions are accompanied by a single picture of his action. Then, on the facing page, 'He sighed. Now what?' Bilby looks small standing in front of the closed book club door, empty landscape surrounding him. His loneliness is instantly recognisable.
This effective text and illustration combination is used beautifully to illustrate the beginning of Bilby’s also interest in a book; with the pictorial focus shifting from the movement of his body to the pictures in his head.
I have a child who would rather wriggle and jiggle, twiddle and fiddle, flip and flop than sit still and read a book. But I know that if she can sit still long enough, with the right book, her imagination will be caught and she will be lost in the world between the pages. This is exactly what Bilby discovers and it is wonderful that he makes the journey all by himself. In a big, squishy, yellow and white spotted, comfy reading chair.

This is a story which will be loved by preschool children and their parents. It captures the joy of reading and shows why Margaret Wild is such a popular Australian author. 

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