Philip Bunting, Mopoke, Omnibus Books/Scholastic Australia, Feb 2017, 48pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781742991658
Mopoke is a deceptively simple picture book. On first opening the book the reader is met with attractive endpapers featuring a brown feather motif on a black background which foreshadows the illustrations that follow. Each opening has a white page on the left with a short sentence in bold, black font in the middle of the page. The repetitive sentence stem “This is …” makes it an accessible text for young readers who can then engage with the illustrations to help complete the sentence. On the opposite page, Bunting uses a black background to create a night atmosphere while a brown Mopoke sits on a solitary limb almost blending into the darkness.
The bird is depicted in a stylised, angular form, yet clever use of the bird’s eye movements creates expression and a warm, appealing character. While having fun with traditional concepts like high and low, the writer also plays with the word ‘Mopoke’ to generate humour as, for example, the bird is referred to ‘Fropoke’ while sporting an Afro hairstyle, or a ‘Blowpoke’ as it is blasted by a hairdryer. Delighting in the fun that can be had with a native animal, the subtle environmental message is enhanced by the book being printed on wood free paper.
Its sparse format, gentle wit and skillful illustrations make Mopoke a funny and charming book that will be enjoyed by both young readers in the four plus age group and the adults who will read the text with them.
Reviewed by John Nolan