Frané Lessac. A Is for Australia: a factastic tour, Walker Books, 1 January 2015, $24.95 (hbk), 48pp., ISBN 9781922179760
Frané Lessac’s brightly illustrated information book, A Is for Australia, uses the alphabet to highlight the variety of Australia’s landscapes, flora, fauna and cultures, from Kakadu in the north to Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem National Park in the south. Lessac’s gouache paintings, dominated by rich blues, greens and ochres, completely fill each page and echo elements of the text, the latter using a small font for the range of factual details about each featured place.
The book begins with a double-page map of Australia naming and locating each of the places that follow. (The addition of a small map in the corner of the following pages, pinpointing each feature’s map location, could have helped young readers orient themselves geographically.) Many of the places named in the text are linked to their Indigenous origins and meanings, and there is a balance between historical and contemporary facts.
Lessac’s book is sub-titled A Factastic Tour so it is disappointing to find small errors and non-preferred nomenclature in the text. One example is the use of ‘Arrenta’, a highly unusual spelling for the Arrernte people. Some fact-checking in authoritative sources would have eliminated this and other anomalies, and provided children with accurate and reliable information.
A Is for Australia is a useful jumping off point for children who want to go exploring. Whether it is a reference to Echuca’s water ski race or the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, the 5,300 kilometre dingo fence or the European explorers of the Torres Straits, there are kernels of information in this book to launch many an excursion into further reference sources. For ages 5+.
reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge