Sunday, 29 January 2017

Australia Illustrated

Australia Illustrated written and illustrated by Tania McCartney (EK Books)
HB RRP $29.99   ISBN 979-1-925335-21-7
Reviewed by Elizabeth Vercoe

A gorgeous textured hardcover book, Australia Illustrated is ‘the ultimate visual reference guide to all things Aussie,’ from award-winning author Tania McCartney.
My review copy has been thumbed through and appreciated by teens and toddlers alike. It’s clever, funny and terribly engaging. Special mention must be made of the list of Aussie slang words which beg to be spoken aloud.  

This non-fiction picture book will appeal to the child in everyone. It’s a glorious mish-mash of facts, figures and curiosities beautifully wrapped with the ribbon of McCartney’s distinctive, colourful and endlessly fascinating illustration style. We are told that the pictures are made using watercolour, gouache, ink, mono-printing, digital art and filters. The overall design is colourful and dynamic, cheerfully whisking the reader from one idea to the next. 

There is so much in this book to love. And to ponder. It’s playful and whimsical – with the author’s enjoyment eminently apparent in textural images and visual stories. The pictures cleverly accentuate the text in some places and work as stand-alone observations in others.

I particularly enjoy being made to work a little. The ideas, images, fonts, layout, cultural icons, maps and events are laid out with charming appeal and quirky connections. Although there are predictable ‘patterns’ of structure, within these the surprises are endless. It’s delightful for instance, to discover (because readers of this book will make discoveries) that the icons which open each chapter, are cobbled together from an array of Australiana. The opera house has been constructed from chook feathers, for instance. The Harbour Bridge from coat hangers. And I’ll leave the big merino as a special surprise.

A picture-book that transcends traditional notions of age, gender and reading ability, I suspect that like the icons represented in its pages, Australia Illustrated will be celebrated for a long time to come.


Recently I made the bold claim that McCartney is well on the way to being a goddess of Australian children’s literature. This offering just about clinches the deal.  

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