Samone Bos (text), Alice Oehr (illus), The Little Book of Australia’s Big Things, Chirpy Bird, 1 September 2015, 48pp., $19.95 (hbk), ISBN: 9781760125547
The Little Book of Australia’s Big Things screams kitsch Australiana and reminds me of growing up in the 1980s; a time when our family holidays lead us to many a ‘big thing’. Despite the fond memories, this book has left me in a quandary. My gut reaction says it hasn’t quite decided how seriously to handle the subject matter, yet it contains so many interesting and entertaining elements.
Intelligent design decisions abound here- the inside of the dust cover provides the perfect background for a collection of newly created ‘Big Thing’ replicas, and pages printed purely with pattern ensure that you don’t lose any text from the reverse when making the aforementioned replicas. The fact, however, that you are required to cut into the (hard-cover) book to do so, is tantamount to sacrilegious mutilation to a book-loving purist such as myself (in any context other than a purpose built pop-out colouring book for littlies).
Despite a delightful sense of colour and fun, the modest illustrations don’t exactly match the digitally-savvy expectations of your average middle school student, despite this being the group most likely to enjoy the textual content. The overall dinky-di, ocker feel is also rather more reminiscent of a bygone era than the more refined multiculturalism we tend to prefer to promote these days.
The Little Book of Australia’s Big Things provides a mixed bag of facts, jokes, photographs and illustrations, recipes and fun things to make and do; yet it’s not quite a reference book, not really a craft book and probably most comfortably belongs in a ‘big thing’ gift shop. As a fun-and-friendly reference book it would have possessed more interesting facts and character profiles, and could have been an outstanding model for making Australian history interesting and relevant. As a good ol’ Aussie craft book, it could have skipped all but the barest facts to focus on the make and do’s.
In a nutshell, The Little Book of Big Things is a delightful trip down memory lane but, for me, is little book full of too many big ideas.
Reviewed by Katie Bingham