Margaret Wild & Dan Wild (text) and Donna Rawlins (illustrator), The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney, Walker Books Australia, September 2021, 32 pp., RRP $25.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781921529238
An amusing, well-researched and quirky insight into the dietary habits and foibles of significant historical figures. Set within a recount of a school excursion to a museum and the imagination of narrator, Martha Maloney, the text is engaging, humorous and fast paced as she takes us into the dining tables of the past.
The juxtaposition of the teacher’s frustration with her students and Martha Maloney’s imagination is authentic and creative. Margaret Wild tells of obscure and quirky facts relating to significant leaders of the past while giving historical context. The ‘End Notes’ pages after each section provide additional facts and personal anecdotes from Martha and further engage the reader. These are effectively cross-referenced through the main body of the text.
The language used is appropriate to the intent of the text with technical terms being explained in asides and comments. It’s creatively presented, with intricate and non-stereotypical illustrations. Those related to the meals are detailed and colourful, enhancing and complementing the written text; the pages related directly to the excursion are more sparingly done but accurately portray the realities of the event. Additional ‘Fun Facts’ pages at the end of the book are useful and interesting and provide further insight into the eccentricities of some historical characters.
This is a multi-layered and creative text that would engage quite a wide audience and encourage an interested reader to explore further. It brings together interesting facts, not easily accessed by a simple Google search, and combines them in a very accessible text.
Reviewed by Sheryl Cootes (Eve Pownall Judge 2022)