Tales From the Bush

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May Gibbs, Tales from the Bush, Scholastic Australia, Feb 2017, 24pp., $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760274795 

May Gibbs is one of Australia’s best loved authors and her timeless tales of the miniature Gumnut Babies and other bush folk have created an enduring mythology of the Australian Bush and delighted young children since her first book was published, one hundred years ago.

When she died in 1969, May Gibbs bequeathed the copyright of her Bush characters to the Northcott Society and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance charities, supporting thousands of Australian children with disabilities.  Tales from the Bush is part of a new series celebrating 100 years of Gumnut Babies and follows on from the first book in the series, Tales from the Gum Tree. All royalties from this series continue to go to May Gibbs’ selected charities.

Tales from the Bush contains three wonderful adventures that are bound to evoke fond memories for adults and are sure to make new readers fall in love with May Gibbs’ classic characters. 

‘I’m Snugglepot and this is Cuddlepie,’ said Snugglepot. ‘We’re going to look for gold. Come and join us!’ 

The adventures begin when our tiny Gumnut heroes set up camp beside the creek, panning for gold and swinging through the trees with the baby spiderlings, but Cuddlepie and Snugglepot soon discover a real treasure when they befriend Ragged Blossom, a sad little blossom without a friend in the world.

The new friends play and explore their bush land home of native plants and animals all brightly illustrated with exquisite attention to detail by Caroline Keys, who clearly shares May Gibbs’ deep love for, and understanding of, the Australian bush.

Along with Mr. Lizard, Mrs. Kookaburra and the other well loved bush folk, we meet the mischievous Mrs. Snake, whose despicable behaviour is spoiling the excitement of the long awaited Summer Bush Dance. But thanks to the gentle-hearted Cuddlepie and his forgiving friends, Mrs. Snake soon learns the error of her ways.

This charming title would make a perfect bedtime story for young children (3 years and above) and could also be used to inspire some fantastic nature based play and exploration.  Lower-primary aged children may feel inspired to take part in a nature walk and might also like to make a Gumnut Baby of their own or, perhaps a string of leaf bunting for a class Summer Bush Dance.

My own children adored this book, and I loved revisiting this beautifully conceived and illustrated classic, with its enchanting cast of tiny heroes and heroines.

Reviewed by Lisa Hoad

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