Archive | July, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore by William Joyce (Simon & Schuster Australia)

20 Jul

Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing won best short animated film at the 83rd Academy Awards, based on his illustrated book. In reverse, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore won best animated short film at the 84th Academy Awards and has now been made into a picture book, probably mainly because of its huge success as an interactive app.

The loved characters, scenes and idiosyncrasies are re-visited in the picture book. Morris Lessmore is a profound character who loved words, stories and books. ‘His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.’ It sounds idyllic until the intrinsic rule about a narrative needing conflict disturbs the peace as early as the second page – when the wind blew and blew. Morris Lessmore’s house flew like Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz and everything he knew was scattered, even the words of his book. He followed an amiable book to a wonderful library where he became immersed in books.  At one point Morris is lost inside the books and dangles from the letter ‘J’ because he is so intent on his reading. Students could be directed to these metafictive pages, where attention is drawn to story itself as an artefact to question the relationship between fiction and reality. This device is also used by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer in Between the Lines and they use the letter ‘J’ as a hook for a character to hang from as well.

There are few books for children which successfully feature an adult main character. This book achieves this, partly because Morris Lessmore has child-like qualities. Read this poignant picture book which, along with the movie and app, celebrate and cherish stories and books.

by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant


Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson (Magabala Books)

13 Jul

Published literature for young adults by Australian Indigenous authors has taken a significant step with Grace Beside Me. The storytelling is compelling, while thoughtful, and the voice is memorable. We discover Fuzzy Mac (named for her hair) and her life in episodic chapters which form a whole narrative. Fuzzy is an authentic character: a character that seems impossible not to find living in a country town somewhere in the mountains.

Because her mother died from a heroin overdose, Fuzzy lives with her grandparents: Pop who loves words and is understanding and wise, and larger-than life Nan who has strong opinions and language, and grounds Fuzzy in the facts and truths of life. As Fuzzy get older, Nan gives more information about her mother, the sweet Koorie girl who took the wrong path but loved her baby daughter. Fuzzy’s sense of identity and strength is honed by her grandparents. She shares their ethos about community and avoids some of the traps set for teenage girls with no lack of authenticity, and real angst in one shocking scene. Grief is also genuine about racism and the treatment of Indigenous people and Kevin Rudd’s Apology forms a core of one chapter, ‘Sorry Day’.

Fuzzy and her family are all guardians of stories, believing that, ‘It’s the listening and telling of these stories that bring our people close, both young and old. Stories keep our culture strong and our faith alive.’


The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf (first in ‘The Tribe’ series; published by Walker Books) is another new recommended novel by an Indigenous author, Ambelin Kwaymullina. It is aimed at a younger readership and the style is very different from the realism of Grace Beside Me. Ashala Wolf is set in a post apocalyptic world after the Reckoning, 300 years earlier, which caused some people to develop special abilities. Ashala is the sixteen year old leader of The Tribe, a group of Illegals with abilities. Like the characters in Grace Beside Me, Ashala and her tribe believe that the world can’t be changed with violence, but through ideas.

by Joy Lawn, Children’s Literature Consultant