The Barber at the Harbour

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Tom Paterson (text), Amy Duncan (illus.), The Barber at the Harbour, Sandy Goose, Nov 2016, 32pp., $26.99 (hbk) ISBN 9780995406902

Music is an easily recognisable indicator of the popular culture and societal attitudes of its time.  Recently, hubby and I downloaded every great song we could think of onto our daughter’s iPods and have delighted in catching them singing along to the music we grew up with, appreciating the pop culture of our time. This book by Brisbane based duo Tom Paterson and Amy Duncan, also introduces pop culture to young readers, using music, well-resolved rhyming couplets and wonderful watercolour illustrations.

As sailors return from long voyages at sea, they head straight to the harbour barber for a tidy-up. The barber listens to each sailor’s hair woes and seeks inspiration from music to give each of them a new style. Influenced by music icons including The Beatles, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, the barber snips a short back and sides, a bowl cut, a “funky afro”, a mullet, dreadlocks and a “mad mohawk”.

This book is a lovely read aloud, with an upbeat rhythm. It would be great fun dig out old photos of family members or friends who also sported those hairstyles … or perhaps still do!

Each sailor is pictured “before” and “after” his haircut, so young readers can see the changes; which are a delight. The soft watercolours are just right for a book set at the seaside. The illustrations are colourful and fresh and they’re clever too, including more pop culture references, such as framed song lyrics on the wall, a purple haze and – my favourite – the yellow submarine. Don’t you just want to burst into song?! I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed too. There’s a balanced mix of full-page and smaller illustrations and I love the fun endpapers, scattered with seaside and pop culture designs from within the pages.

Reviewed by Carissa Mason

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