Monday 30 March 2015

This is Captain Cook

This is Captain Cook by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Christina Booth (NLA Publishing)
HC RRP $24.99
ISBN 9780642278692
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Two highly talented artists have collaborated to create this entertaining and educational picture book for the 3+ year age group. It’s totally captivating from cover-to-cover. The end pages display the chickens from the story accompanied by clever captions. Every page is a new discovery. I loved it! This is another outstanding production from the National Library of Australia.

Mrs Batts’ class is presenting a play on the life of Captain James Cook; from his boyhood on the farm (lots of chickens and two goats are included in the show) to when he sailed away to Hawaii never to return. The story concentrates on his life as mariner, father and adventurer.

For me there were several parts to applaud in this stunning picture book (the comedy of chickens was an added novelty). The delightful, light-hearted text by Tania McCartney sets the mood. Christine Booth’s brilliant detailed illustrations activate the art show.

The story begins with ceaseless activity taking place on the stage. Chickens run amok as children try to catch them with nets. A cast of children act out their parts as they wave to parents in the audience. Everyone is having tremendous fun.

The first image of the audience shows the parents arriving, greeting each other, and the show starting. This is all in colour.

On the following pages, the images of the audience are shadows. Parents share whispered conversation. Babies babble. One baby is thinking of the toy it has dropped. Another has fallen asleep in its mother’s arms. This is where a second story seems to appear, trying not to obscure the stage play, but demanding attention none-the-less.

There is doubt as to how much the parents are taking in of the actual show, for many are distracted by the few children chasing and trying to catch those elusive chickens.

I was impressed by the amount of interaction the book engendered. I had to look carefully time and again, to fully absorb the volume of information contained on each page. This guarantees that children will discover new things each time they open the covers. The rich content will generate questions and answers between adult and child.

At the end is a double page spread with illustrated frames identical to the images in Cook’s Gallery. More information can be accessed along with maps and journals through the NLA on-line. 

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