Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern (text) and Tania McCartney (illustrator), Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival, Penguin, September 2020, 64 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760894511
Aussie Kids is a new series for readers who are ready for their first chapter books. Each of the eight books features a child from somewhere in Australia, giving children a peek into the lives of other kids’ homes and neighbourhoods. Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival is a recent addition to this wonderful series.
Matilda lives in Canberra where she spends a lot of time with her friend Hansuke at the Japanese Embassy where he lives. Matilda’s dad works for the Prime Minister of Australia, and every year Matilda and her family are invited to attend the festival at the embassy for the Emperor of Japan’s birthday. Matilda and Hansuke have fun at the festival: they watch taiko drumming, fold origami and eat too many dumplings and sushi. But Matilda is sad – Hansuke is moving back to Japan, and soon it will be time to say goodbye.
This is a lovely book about friendship and also a bit of a tour of some of Canberra’s famous landmarks (the science museum, Lake Burley Griffen, the carillon) and experiences (festivals, hot-air-balloons rides, Canberra’s weather). It has a simple but engaging plot with a charming, feel-good surprise at the end.
Made for young independent readers, the story is around 50 pages with large, well-spaced font. Illustrations appear on almost every page in grey and purple tones, depicting scenes from the story. These help to break up the text, as well as add interest for the reader. It is great to see the story include kids from diverse backgrounds who are also portrayed in the illustrations.
Aussie Kids: Meet Matilda at the Festival also includes a map, fun facts about Canberra, and a postcard graphic at the beginning that introduces the character and place.
This book, along with the others in the series, is a great read, recommended for newly confident readers aged 5 to 8.
Reviewed by Bec Blakeney