Australia Illustrated

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Tania McCartney,  Australia Illustrated, EK Books/Exisle Publishing,  1 Nov 2016, 96pp., $29.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781925335217

I have to admit at the outset, I’m a Tania McCartney fan. I have been following the progress of, and eagerly anticipating the publication of, her first author-illustrated book – so much so that Australia Illustrated was on my Christmas list – I had already pored over its pages even before receiving this review copy. That said, what do I really think of this book?

I love it! Colourful, comical and quirky, this is an encyclopaedia like you’ve never seen before, encapsulating the natural, built and cultural landscape of Australia. Tania breathes her own style into iconic images like the Sydney Opera House, seen as a nest of feathers, and the famous ‘coat hanger’ Sydney Harbour Bridge actually made up of coat hangers.  She’s captured simple Aussie pleasures like swinging on the clothes line, and plays on words like horse riding (the horse is riding a bike).  The pictures seem to leap off the page in illustrations of the joyful abandon of  Sydney ferries incorporated into bath play and the schools of colourful fish in the Great Barrier Reef.

Australia Illustrated is not just a book about places and icons, but also about experiences, like playing in the sand or snow or cycling around Canberra, eating ice-cream or sipping on Bubbaccinos, attending a country show or being dazzled by the night sky. Between the textured hardcover, the book, like Australia itself, is bursting with energy and vitality mediated by the child characters that populate the pages. It is a book for children to dive into and delight in again and again. It would be a wonderful book for visitors to Australia, or Aussies living overseas, for school libraries or for the coffee table at home.

No opportunity is wasted in this book – everything is incorporated into McCartney’s quirky edgy style, including the sign-post themed publication and acknowledgement details in the front and back in which she describes Australia Illustrated as ‘an opus of sorts for me… a small slice of the land I was born in and which I love.’  Highly recommended.

Teacher’s Notes are available on the Exisle Publishing website.

Reviewed by Debra Tidball

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