Frane Lessac, Under the Southern Cross, Walker Books Australia, October 2018, 32 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925381016
Under the Southern Cross is a beautiful celebration of Australia and the things that make it unique. Transporting the reader from place to place, the book covers each of the capital cities and a few less-familiar areas, each chosen for its unique features, such as the turtles hatching in Mon Repos and the mysterious lights in Boulia.
With each page turning, another colourful and evocative double-spread illustration is revealed. These illustrations depict rich landscapes as well as the diversity of people in Australia.
Each place has a short sentence introducing it, followed by the repetition of “under the Southern Cross”. Themes are expanded upon with factual information broken into short paragraphs and spread around the pages. It’s just enough information for curious young children, presented in easy-to-understand language. The Southern Cross theme is explored more fully in two pages of information included towards the end of the book and a map of Australia is also included. In future editions, the map has potential to be a bigger feature of the book, or even a pull-out poster that children could use to find the places mentioned in the story.
Under the Southern Cross is a joyful book that thankfully moves away from the usual Australian stereotypes to incorporate lesser-known and possibly more interesting details. A lovely invitation to get to know this beautiful country a little more, it would be a great addition to any child’s library and especially useful in kindergartens and early primary school classrooms.
Reviewed by Rebecca Blakeney