Florette written and illustrated by Anna Walker (Penguin Viking) HB RRP
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
I loved both the front and back covers of this picture book by a well-known Australian picture book creator, but when I opened it, the fly pages took my breath away: they are simply sumptuous, so lovely -- a mass of foliage of all shades of green with the occasional flower or small animal. On the title page, the word ‘Florette’ is decorated with sprigs of greenery and flowers while below it a small child in short plants is offering a plant to a sitting dog.
This is the story of Mae who wants to take her garden with her when her family moves to a new home. However, ‘there was no room among the crowded roof-tops for apple trees and daffodils.’ All around the small child lies concrete and there are no opportunities for her to ‘chase butterflies in the wavy grass.’ Even the park in her new home is filled with ‘tiny stones and empty chairs.’ Following a bird, Mae comes across a beautiful shop filled with greenery, but sadly it’s closed. Outside it, though, she finds a ‘stalk of green.’ She plants this in a jar on a window ledge in her apartment.
In the final double-page illustration the outdoor’s courtyard where children used to play hopscotch and other chalk games, is filled with many pots of leafy plants and children who play and help tend Mae’s new garden. And in the final single page illustration we see the front of the apartment block where windows bloom with vegetation. Mission accomplished!
This delightful picture book shows readers how it is possible to fulfill one’s vision even when it doesn’t seem possible, simply by being persistent and taking a new perspective. It shows too the power of the imagination, the magic of the natural world and resilience in the face of change. Mae’s experience must surely encourage children to ‘green’ their environment no matter where they live.
The text of Florette is simple, the sentences short and sweet: the illustrations, often set with lots of white space are poignant and compelling. This book is highly recommended especially for readers aged 5 to 7 years.