Kirli Saunders (text) Matt Ottley (illus.), The Incredible Freedom Machines, Scholastic Australia, May 2018, 24pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781760275228
A young girl wants to break the boundaries of her limited world. She sees others gliding past in their fantastic freedom machines and wants one for herself. Eventually she discovers her own machine and voyages to all sorts of wondrous places, from the bottom of the sea to untouched, beautiful landscapes, all of which make her “a little more entire.” On the final page of the text she is shown relaxing in a chair with a book – her freedom machine that can take her anywhere and help her be whatever she dreams.
Kirli Saunders’ text is sparse but with a flowing, lyrical style that gives it a reflective and thoughtful tone. Utilizing double page spreads to create a sense of vast spaces, Matt Ottley’s illustrations create a striking, dreamlike landscape that breathes startling visual life into the written text. The fantastic machines that soar across the pages have a space age quality and starkly contrast with the mundane and shabby world of the caravan park where the girl lives. Their elegance and grace exemplify the ethereal nature of her imagination and transport both her and the reader to extraordinary places.
The book is beautifully produced on quality gloss paper with each illustration using appealing colours. It evokes the works of surrealist artists, while the Da Vinci style drawings on the end papers link it to the grand tradition of imaginative and visionary minds.
The Incredible Freedom Machines captures the ability of a book to take readers anywhere and release them from the constraints and limitations of their situation and environment. It is a visually stunning testament to the power of literature and would be suitable to use for Book Week, particularly in primary schools.
Reviewed by John Nolan