Friday 10 July 2015

Lara of Newtown

Lara of Newtown by Chris McKimmie (Allen & Unwin 2015)
HB RRP $29.99
ISBN: 9781760112325

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

Lara of Newtown is a strikingly quirky picture book about a cat trying to find a forever home. Not just any cat, but a beautifully unique, hand-drawn cat in a unique, hand-drawn town.

The first time I read this story I found it so sad, and it is in many ways. Upon a second and third read though, it struck me that this is a story of hope. McKimmie doesn’t pull any punches in conveying the cat’s abandonment. Her loneliness and desire to be loved is palpable. Things might not work out with Nana Banana or Noni Nice, but McKimmie’s endearing feline protagonist ultimately finds her happy place with the eccentric Kafoopses. She is happy as Larry, or Lara, as named by her forever family.

McKimmie tackles themes of identity, belonging and love in such a fresh and imaginative way. His bustling collages and array of erratic font choices can be overwhelming, but hidden elements of humour help to soften the harsh reality of Lara’s situation.

As this story has the potential to evoke many questions and feelings from younger children, and there are many references within the collages with adult appeal, it is a good one to read together. It will leave everyone feeling safe and warm like the lovely Lara, who thinks she is a ‘lucky boots’.

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