An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids

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McCARTNEY, Tania (text) Tina Snerling (illus.) An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids EK Books, 2013 unpaged $19.99 ISBN 9781921966248 SCIS 1617200 

As the sub-title makes clear, this large format picture book follows the adventures of five young Australian children throughout one year.  The aim is to focus on events and games with ‘traditional Australian elements’, including those of Indigenous and multicultural communities.  The children are introduced, specifying their age, special interests and country of origin: Greece, China/Vietnam, Ireland, one Indigenous Australian and one Anglo Celtic Australian.  There is a good mix of festivals and celebrations from Chinese and Vietnamese New Years to Easter; NAIDOC Week to Remembrance Day.  Interspersed with major events are numerous old and more recent traditions such as exchanging Christmas presents and sleepovers.  Ramadan receives a mention but it is a pity that none of the children is from the Middle East, from whence many of our new settlers come.  Each item has its own illustration but the point would have been better made if each child were easier to identify, especially for young children.  The one exception is the Indigenous boy who looks alarmingly like Little Black Sambo.  There is a large map of Australia that clearly shows each state, the capital cities and a few well-known sites such as Uluru and the Gold Coast.  The endpapers comprise a wonderful miscellany of miniatures of all the events and activities.  Ages 3-8.  ED

7 Comments

  1. I’m puzzled by this reviewer’s comments re the Indigenous child ‘who looks alarmingly like Little Black Sambo’ when clearly the illustrator did not draw the child that way at all. It seems like a throwaway line without much thought or consideration, in my opinion.

    If anyone has any doubts about how the original 1899 ‘Little Black Sambo’ was depicted in illustrations, you might like to check out the original cover where “Sambo is crudely drawn, an obvious caricature”. The Indigenous child in An Aussie Year is not a caricature. http://mulattodiaries.com/2010/04/24/re-little-black-sambo/

    The illustrator, Tina Snerling will no doubt feel justly hurt by this negative comment of her work, especially when she and the author, Tania McCartney had the foresight to consult with an Indigenous advisor on content and images.

  2. Not sure about the reference to “LIttle Black Sambo”. Clearly the children are all depicted in a similar style, there is just one who has darker skin whom I assume is the indigenous child? Why make the reference at all, particularly when the author has been tremendously inclusive in the text, as you have written? And as for the comment that it would be better “if each child were easier to identify, especially for young children”, surely that is part of the point of the book? That it doesn’t matter where someone is from, we have similarities as well as differences, and that we should all be treated with the same respect and care. As far as I can see, that it what this book does, in abundance.,

  3. What a disappointing review for such a prominent journal. I would never expect an accusation of a racist nature, tantamount to slurring the impeccable integrity of both the author and illustrator, not to mention the publisher.

  4. Have just read the review of Tania McCartney & Tina Snerling’s picture book and the reviewer’s opinions make me feel quite queasy.

    It is very complimentary in several places, and deservedly so, but the criticisms are so barbed. Is there one definitive “Little Black Sambo” pic I should know about? How else could the illustrator have depicted an Aboriginal child more accurately(?) and still keep to her wonderful illustrative style?

    Surely simply adding a Middle Eastern child would only end up with people asking where all the other nationalities were, or accusations of tokenism, would it not? (Wot, no Inuits?)

    If the reviewer wants some Middle Eastern representations in picture books – and sure, it’s often a neglected angle and obvious picture book fodder – perhaps she should write some, and try to get those manuscripts accepted by the publishers.

    This is a very strange book review for a site with a tradition of reliability.

  5. There are approximately 194,000 Middle Eastern Australians according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This is derived from census data which is further broken down into sixteen separate countries of origin including ‘not specified’.
    The current population of Australia is 22.68 million people which means our Middle Eastern Australians make up approximately .8% in total. So less than one percent and that less than one percent is further broken down into 16ths. The question then is which of the 16 nationalities should the illustrator choose to represent while ignoring much larger populations from other origins?
    Being Aboriginal, Koorie, Murray or Indigenous is not about skin colour. It is about heart, family and country and connection to the land. The child portrayed in this book is in exact proportions to the others and not at all an exaggerated caricature as suggested by that review.
    I believe the illustrator and the author have both produced a lovely book which gives a good general overview of life in a multicultural country like Australia. It is difficult to encapsulate every Nationality which chooses to make Australia home and wonderful that we are being given beautiful artwork to celebrate so many good things about our mixed heritage. Well done Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. I have purchased several copies of this book to send overseas where it has been received with delight.

  6. I am offended by the racist comments in the Reading Time review and feel that the editor of that particular issue should publish an apology and an assurance that in future all reviews are free of any racist comments.

  7. I’m shocked that a reviewer would compliment a book so much, and then inflame readership with such a racist term. This book review is all over the place. The most disconcerting part is I see the pictures of the children, and in no way does that child look how Little Black Sambo is depicted in the original books.

    This review is confusing and unjust, and never should have passed editorial review. An ethical journal, such as yours, should have it removed immediately.

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