Over a year ago now, I blogged about the beautiful poem Outback written by the then eight-year-old Annaliese Porter and published by Magabala Books in Australia, in a stunning edition illustrated by renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft. I recently lent our copy of Outback to a friend to use with her class of eight-year-olds here in the UK, when they were learning about aboriginal art, and it was an eye-opening experience for them to work with a book written by someone their own age.
Now Magabala have done it again – they recently published Joshua and the Two Crabs by Joshua Button, “a young man with a keen interest in the saltwater country he has grown up in”.
It’s a delightful story, told with humour, as Joshua chases the two crabs around the beach, telling them,
‘I can see you two!’
‘Well, we can see you too,’ said the crabs.
The three-fold repetition of this satisfying formula perhaps lulls young readers/ listeners into a false sense of this being a wholly imaginary, anthropomorphised tale – so it comes as a bit of a shock when Joshua catches them and then throws them onto the fire to cook for lunch! However, Joshua’s matter-of-fact tone is quite in keeping with the descriptive narrative… I would say the story is a perfect example of a child’s ability to weave fact and fiction together in one breath. We adults sometimes walk a tightrope here. How often have you found yourself in a no-win situation? Either you go along with the imaginings and are berated for saying something which is obviously not true, or you are likewise reproached for throwing in the cold water of fact! Well, Joshua Button seems to have got the blend just right, judging by Little Brother’s reaction.
He was chuckling for a long time that Joshua carried a bucket and spear at the beach – and he loved the pictures – he liked the textures and layering. They are indeed stunning – the colors bring the sea and the creek alive; the crabs are wonderful, as are the vignettes of the waders – and I especially loved Joshua peering down at the crabs in his very goggly goggles!
A while after reading it together, it became apparent that Little Brother had been mulling it over:
“Joshua Button does exist.”
“Yes, he does.”
“Do you think this is a true story?
“Yes, I do.”
“But the bit about talking crabs is fiction.”
“Well, it could say that”
“But it’s a story – fundamentally it’s a story, isn’t it?”
“Well, it did happen. It’s a story about two crabs.”
…and he is now thinking about writing his own book. In my post yesterday, I quoted Jarrett Krosoczka and the effect on him of a comment from a visiting author to his school – how much more aspirational then to read a book in print that is written by someone your own age! Not only has Joshua Button given children all over the world the opportunity to find out about a fun family day out in his corner of Australia, he has opened them to the possibility that they could do it too. Thank you, Magabala Books!