Sunday 11 January 2015

One Step at a Time

One Step at a Time by Jane Jolly, illustrated by Sally Heinrich (MidnightSun Publishing)
HB RRP $27.99
ISBN 9780987380951

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The cover of this picture book immediately grabs one’s attention as it is bold and attractive, showing that the artwork is obviously the result of print-making. Opening it, one is amused by the fly pages showing an elephant trudging across the page in line after line. The illustrator, Sally Heinrich, has been recognized through various fellowships and this book, the first picture book from an Australian publishing company which established in late 2014, is pictorially stunning.

Set in Thailand and based on fact, the story is of a boy, Luk, who is keeper of Mali an elephant; together they help Luk’s grandmother drag timber from the forest. However, disaster is moments away when Mali steps on a landmine and is downed. Saffron-robed monks from a temple chant ‘aged-old blessings’ on Mali and the small boy tends her. Happily, a practical solution is found to help the crippled elephant and all ends well.

The publisher claims this is a ‘ground-breaking story’ and portrayed in picture book form, it most likely is as it draws a child reader’s attention to the dreadful problem of more than 110 active mines scattered in over 70 countries around the world – a fact mentioned in a post-script.

That Jolly is a fine writer is evidenced by the fact she has won three CBCA Notable mentions for her picture books. This is a beautifully designed book with illustrations which are dramatic in parts and tender in others. The illustrator makes frequent use of border illustrations that are in keeping with the oriental feel of the book. Jolly and Heinrich and MidnightSun Publishing ought to be well-pleased with this special book for children aged 6 years and up.

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