Archive | May, 2012

Surrealism for Kids by Queensland Art Gallery (Qld Art Gallery and GOMA)

26 May

Surrealism for Kids has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia 2012 awards in the Eve Pownall Information Books category.  It certainly deserves to be there. It also won the Bronze award in the international 2012 IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Awards) for children’s interactive books. A number of important surrealist artists are showcased in this book in minimal, child-friendly text, and captivating art activities are also suggested. The authors from the Qld Art Gallery have devised very appealing tasks and even provide quality photocopiable pages to assist and inspire.

The Qld Art Gallery has also published two other books for children, both brimming with creativity and ideas. Drawing Life for Kids: My Art Journal is the scaffold for a personal journal where short suggestions and engaging background photos impel kids to put their mark on the page. For example, ‘Write a secret note to pass to your friend’ shows a paper aeroplane next to an unfolded and slightly crumpled plane template which is begging to be written on. ‘Draw the messiest spot in the house’ shows a doll’s house with empty rooms waiting to be filled by young artists. The book is structured around some information about artists including Margaret Olley, ‘Home Sweet Home’ and René Magritte, ‘My Imagination’.

Interesting artists are the focus of 21st Century Art for Kids. Australian and other contemporary artists and their work are shown in photos. There is also an activity for each artist. For example, Pierre Bismuth from France likes drawing onto the TV screen; following an actor’s hand or James Bond’s nose, to make a pattern. Children are encouraged, not to draw on the TV, but onto beautiful art (or other) catalogues. These catalogue backgrounds can possibly be the catalyst for ideas.

Upcoming books to look out for will be published with the gallery’s Prada exhibition in July and the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in December but the books do stand alone from the exhibitions.

These books could engender a life-long interest in the visual arts. They are aimed at primary school age (or younger) but will also appeal to teens and would be ideal to leave on coffee tables.

 by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant

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Metro Winds by Isobelle Carmody (Allen & Unwin)

12 May

Metro WindsAlthough there are subtle differences between place and style, the stories in Metro Winds explore the archetype of the quest through the lens of speculative fiction. The fantasy stories, ‘The Wolf Prince’, ‘The Girl Who Could See the Wind’ and ‘Metro Winds’ are the book’s highest points. Perhaps incidentally, these three stories have female protagonists but they also emulate the conventions of ‘quest fantasy’. Significantly, they describe a search for identity and place. For example, the girl in ‘Metro Winds’ is wrenched from her home beside the ocean and taken to the city, where her windows are painted shut. She later experiences an epiphany and discovers her true self in the surreal, untamed metro.

The three stories with male protagonists are linked by air travel in the real world. Each of the protagonists has travelled from Australia, or a similar place, to Europe. Airports are waiting places. These stories share that weariness: time has changed and folded; a task must be achieved. In ‘The Dove Game’, the man is keeping a rendezvous in place of another man who died amongst the eucalypts. ‘The Stranger’ is in search of vampires in Greece and ‘The Man Who Lost his Shadow’ enters an even darker place. All the men are seeking, and all believe they must cross time and space to fulfil their quests. Their worlds are those of ‘real’ places while the fantasy stories, particularly ‘The Wolf Prince’ and ‘The Girl Who Could See the Wind’ move from the real world to the secondary world of fantasy. Willow, the girl who could see the wind, is taken to an Australian-like place from her northern hemisphere home by her grieving mother. This new place becomes home but the park she sees from her window, and is not meant to enter, is not in a dimension that most others can see. The young woman in ‘The Wolf Prince’ becomes a princess in the land of faerie, which sits physically beside her Venetian-like city. She is able to move between the two places after fulfilling the tasks that allow her to transform her prince but where does she truly belong?

Many of Isobelle Carmody’s themes, motifs and concerns from her acclaimed Obernewtyn Chronicles appear in Metro Winds. These include dreams, secrets, beasts and misfits. Some of the short stories are for older readers – mature secondary and adults, but the others will beguile all readers of sophisticated speculative fiction.

by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant

Tanglewood by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman (Omnibus Books, Scholastic)

2 May

Tanglewood is the only tree on a remote island. In its lonely state it calls to the passing wildlife but no one answers or keeps it company. During a storm, a seagull fell into the heart of Tanglewood. Seagull could only stay for a day and a night and then it had to return to its family. ‘Family is love and friendship. Family is everything’, it said. Seagull promised to return but seasons passed and Tanglewood waited and waited. Tanglewood’s strong emotions of loneliness and hope make the reader long for it to find a friend. The written text is placed on the pages effectively, especially brief sentences alone on the page which make a dramatic impact – ‘But nobody ever came.’

The illustrations are almost photo-realistic but are more emotive because they have a slight other-worldly effect. Panels are used successfully; particularly the bleak panel in the middle of the page which shows Tanglewood’s roots when they stop searching for water. When Seagull leaves, there is a long panel of the sea which emulates the empty horizon. The slow passing of the seasons is shown by a grid of small panels. These panels also deliberately slow down the reading.

Tanglewood is aimed at children in primary school and is likely to be a CBCA Notable Book in 2013.

 by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant