For me, it was a case of love at first sight, the first time I came across Bronwyn Bancroft‘s artwork. So in this Books at Bedtime post I’m going to highlight three titles all by different authors but illustrated by Bronwyn. The first two fit neatly into our current Water in Multicultural Children’s Books theme; and the third provides an accent to it with its Alice Springs desert setting – no, not a lot of water there…
First up is Big Rain Coming, written by Katrina Germein (Clarion Books, 1999). The text is snappy and there’s plenty of expansive detail in the illustrations to pore over with a child. Everyone, but everyone is waiting for the rain to come, from Old Stephen, to the kids; from the dogs to the frogs. The clouds gather, and still they wait, right through each day of the week, until finally, on Saturday, it rains. It won’t be long till the child you share this book with knows the words by heart and is jubilantly shouting out the last couple of pages before you get a look in! My favorite illustration: the children swimming in the blue/green billabong, surrounded by tall pink flowers – gorgeous!
Next is Malu Kangaroo: How the First Children Learnt to Surf written by Judith Morecroft (Little Hare, 2007), which again is a finely tuned synthesis of word and image. Malu the Kangaroo boldly tells the people, “I will show you how to play with the ocean.” And then he shapes and polishes a piece of wood into a surf-board. As he tells them how it will feel to surf, Bronwyn’s illustrations underscore the joyous lyricism of Malu Kangaroo’s words, with birds soaring and dipping into the surf, fish flying, and dolphins leaping. The patterns and swirls that have their roots in aboriginal art, coupled with Bronwyn’s characteristic bright pallette are simply (yes I am going to use that words agian!) gorgeous. My favorite illustration: the birds that ‘sweep and fly’, breaking up the horizontal bands of sand, surf and sky.
And lastly, Ready to Dream written by Donna Jo Napoli and Elena Furrow (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2009). Young artist Ally’s Mamma is taking her to Australia for the first time. At Alice Springs, Ally meets Pauline, an artist who, with just a few gentle words each time, teaches Ally to get closer in her art to the animals and nature she sees and experiences on her excursions. In their last meeting they draw together in the sandy earth, and Ally’s reaction shows that, in Pauline’s culminating words, she is “ready to dream”. There is much for young people to ponder in this gentle story that will appeal especially to budding artists – and there’s no doubt that they could be trying their hand at something in Bronwyn’s style as a result. My favourite illustration: Ally throwing high the stone on which she has painted a kangaroo, so that it can hop free.