An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Tina Snerling (Exisle Publishing, 2013)
Reviewed by Dianne Bates
The author, illustrator and publisher ought to be very proud of this beaut book. The bright, well-designed cover shows Australian children – Zoe, Kirra, Matilda, Lily and Ned – of different ethnic origins who each has childhood adventures throughout the following pages.
Next to come are the fly pages: Wow, what a lovely introduction to what is to follow! They depict dozens of colourful, fascinating boxed illustrations of the five children enjoying their Aussie lives. After this, the children are introduced. Kirra, for instance, is an Aboriginal boy who wants to be an environmental scientist when he grows up. Matilda – whom everyone calls Tilly – was born in Ireland; she loves sewing and horse riding. Each of the children has a history, hobbies and an ambition.
From then on the book’s double pages tell what happens to each of these children during each month of the year. In January, for example, they play cricket, enjoy picnics, eat icy poles, swim during the school holidays and celebrate Australia Day. (Lily, whose father is Vietnamese, enjoys Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, which sometimes falls in February). In April there’s Anzac Day, the Royal Easter Show, the Easter Bilby and April Fool’s Day, and so it goes on.
As young readers turn the twelve double pages, they can relate to the various activities and events that the book’s characters engage in and enjoy. Each page is beautifully designed with lots of white space, lively variations of text and colourful cartoonish illustrations. After each of the months’ page-spreads, there’s a map of Australia with interesting and relevant facts: Zoe swims in the Great Barrier Reef, Ned surfs off the West Australian coast, Kirra fishes near Kakadu, Matilda builds a snowman in Tasmania in winter and Lily announces there are six states and two territories in Australia.
This is a truly delightful book that not only celebrates friendships and all that Australia has to offer, but which will reward young readers (and older ones, like this reviewer) with many hours of enjoyment. Writers for children are told not to preach to their readers, or try to teach lessons: any child opening An Aussie Year will not realise that there is indeed lots to learn from perusing this book; they’ll be having too much fun reading it and looking at the terrific pictures!