Reviewed by Dianne Bates
When Australia’s children’s laureate, author-illustrator Leigh Hobbs says of a book on its cover (as he does on this picture book): ‘Adorable characters, superb artwork and an engaging story… everything a great picture book should be,’ it certainly sets up expectations. So let’s see…
This is the story of George Laurent, a duck which isn’t like most birds: he doesn’t go north or south – he prefers the comforts of home where he enjoys baking ‘the most astonishing pastries.’ Bird friends like Penelope Thornwhistle and Walter Greenburg suggest that he travels, but baking and ironing are what George prefers to do. Come Winter, though, George is alone, except for a visit from Pascal Lombard. It is now that George admits a secret – he is unable to fly. ‘On that important day when everyone learned to fly, he was simply doing something else.’ Pascal, who is a brown bear, decides to teach his duck friend how to fly. Failure!
When the two see a hot air balloon in a newspaper, they are inspired to built one themselves. Off they go to discover ‘the world was bigger and more brilliant than they had ever imagined.’ However, something was missing… And to find out what is missing you will have a read Somewhere Else.
The illustrations in this delightful and charming book are marvellous, ranging from the huge array of different (and fascinating) travelling cases on the fly pages to the first page spread of a wide assortment of birds flying north and south, and on to the story of George. Some of the pages have coloured illustrations with line drawings, while others are full-page collages. The double-page spread of Paris at night, with the Eiffel Tower lit up by a pale cream moon, are simply splendid.
Every page is worth poring over – each is full of interest with so many different artistic techniques. The story is simple and straight forward – there is nothing here that is deep and meaningful, but as well as the adorable characters the Laureate mentions, there is certainly superb artwork. This is a book for readers of all ages.