Monday, 4 January 2016

Where’s Jessie?

Where’s Jessie? by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas (NLA Publishing)
HC RRP 24.99
ISBN 9780642278753

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Bertie the bear is Jessie’s beloved toy and best friend. With no room to carry him in the cart that they are travelling, he is strapped into a box to be taken by the cameleers across the desert to their outback home. 

They cross the red, wind-whipped deserts. A cameleer decides to show Bertie the scenery but doesn’t notice when he drops him. 

Bertie longs for Jessie as lonely and still for days in the red earth, he listens to the movement of living things all around him. Wild dogs sniff and nudge him. Bats circle above. Scuttling lizards, echidnas and mice investigate him as snakes slither and slide over him.  

Heavy rains flood the plain. The water surges and sweeps Bertie along with it. He is caught and lifted high in an eagle’s claws then dropped again onto the red dirt.

Gentle dark hands lift him; hands that carry him to outstretched arms, and to a voice that speaks his name.

This moving adventure of friendship, loss and recovery, is brilliantly translated by talented illustrator Anne Spudvilas. At the end of the story, Janeen Brian shares the origins of Bertie’s story inspired by a real life event. 

The defining finishing touch comes once again from the archives of the NLA. It showcases original photos of the cameleers and camel trains of the Australian Outback of the early 1900s. The information on these cameleers emphasises the significant role they played in outback life. Winding up another fantastic production are the illustrations listed in miniature form accompanied by their details.

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