Saturday 2 April 2022

The Lonely Jacaranda

The Lonely Jacaranda by Russell Irving (Self-Published) PB RRP $16.49 ISBN 978 0 64523822 8

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Russell Irving has written and illustrated a picture book that is inspired by his home town of Grafton in Northern New South Wales. Every year, at the end of October the town holds a Jacaranda festival.

Jaca the Jacaranda tree is lonely. She’s the only one of her kind in her town. Even the birds won’t visit her bare branches. The birds notice Jaca’s loneliness and decide to help her so that she will no longer be alone.

This fable is well sequenced, and starts with Jaca living alone after being taken far away from her home. Because Jaca’s so different to the native trees she doesn’t fit in. The other trees laugh at her. Ignored by the birds and trees, she doesn’t flourish. The trees all laughed at her thinking she was strange. ‘What self-respecting tree loses all its leaves? They asked and left her all alone.

The takeaway message is that we all need to be loved and accepted to grow. The characters are trees and birds and they are a perfect choice for this story. The birds find a solution to give Jaca friends and the ending is satisfying and quite surprising. There are touches of onomatopoeia that add to the text. We hide amongst the Flame tree flowers, darting in and out. ‘Zwit, zwit, zwit’ said Flame Robin and Zebra Finch. Giving Jaca a name, personifies her and makes her relatable.

The story touches upon the themes of friendship, bullying, loneliness, regeneration, and nature.  Russell Irving is a story teller and it shows in his words. It’s a well thought out story and inclusion of the wording of purple rain at the end is lovely and the final words are the take-home message for the reader. ‘I finally feel at home,’ says Jaca to anyone who asks. ‘Why wouldn’t I when I have my family and friends?’

The illustrations are hand painted in watercolour.  I particularly love the green double page spread with Flame tree and Eucalyptus flowers and native birds. It’s delicate, detailed and eye catching. Irving has created movement and draws the eye along the pages with bird flight and wind movement. The background colours vary on each page and the last few double spreads celebrate the joyful purple rain of Jacaranda trees.

The Lonely Jacaranda is a touching fable for ages 5 and up. This is a book that will appeal to anyone who loves Jacaranda trees and the sub-tropical region, of Grafton in NSW. It has great local appeal but also a wider appeal due to the themes it covers.

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