28 October 2022

The Canberra Bookshelf: is it Christmas already?

| Barbie Robinson
Start the conversation
children's book cover

Craig Cormick’s Colonial Settlement is a quirky, smart history book for children. Photo: Supplied.

If you frequent shopping malls, you will know that commerce decrees Christmas to start in October and Easter on 27 December. You’ll forgive me then, I hope, for referring you now to your Christmas book buying list.

Prolific adult and child author Craig Cormick’s Colonial Settlement France vs Britain in the WHAT IF History of Australia series is published by Big Sky Publishing and illustrated by Cheri Hughes. (It now has a companion about the gold rushes.)

Craig’s jokey style of writing and Cheri’s quirky cartoon illustrations will be very appealing to primary school children. While inviting stimulating intellectual speculation about early settlement and possible scenarios, Craig manages to inject plenty of information amid his humour.

The illustrations tell their own story and are just the sort of thing that even reluctant readers will enjoy.

Poking fun at history and the way we record it allows us to understand the notion of point of view, a very important concept for developing readers. The inclusion of the dual timelines at the end of the book will be helpful for teachers to keep their students on track in discerning fact from speculation.

magpie drawing

Godwin and Crispe’s Swoop is a familiar story for Canberra children. Photo: Supplied.

Spring in Canberra reminds us that we are latecomers to this country – snakes and birds were here before us and should be respected. Magpies are often feared for their swooping, especially by cyclists.

Nicole Godwin’s story and Susannah Crispe’s illustrations in Swoop, published by CSIRO Publishing, give the magpie a voice and a point of view. Any swooping is merely intended to keep the potential egg marauders at bay.

READ ALSO From paddocks and paper cutouts, Woden celebrates 60 years

As well as the clarity of its message, the book boasts a use of mature language which will encourage vocabulary development in young readers and listeners.

The pictures are visually beautiful storytelling, allowing us to see how the world looks to a bird. Many pages are decoratively adorned with eucalypt leaves and blossoms and there are elements of humour in the portrayal of human beings trying to protect themselves from swooping beaks.

The information section at the end covers birdsong, behaviour and habits, Indigenous names for magpie and, of course, swooping.

This is a very successful pairing of a skilled author and a gifted illustrator and I hope to see more of their work together.

tree in paddock

Dianne Lucas has written an engaging and frank memoir, Coolamon Girl. Photo: Supplied.

For aficionados of memoir, Coolamon Girl by Dianne Lucas, published by Ginninderra Press, provides an engaging and frank story of a young country woman in a time frame spanning the 1950s to 1970s.

The author speaks with a beguiling openness about the miseries of her childhood, the struggles of young womanhood and coming to terms with her ongoing trauma as she matured.

This is part one of Dianne’s memoir – book two will take us up to the present day and the person she has become.

READ ALSO Things to do in Canberra this week (14 – 20 October)

As with all good memoirs, the work is as much a picture of the times and places as of the writer. Australian country life in the 1950s provides the origin story and then we move to Canberra in the 1970s, to Hong Kong and its pacey lifestyle in a journalist’s community and then the Philippines, where Dianne worked on a yacht.

Her life after just over two decades had been very recordable for its variety, but it is the candour with which she writes that arrests us. No detail, no matter how personal or potentially embarrassing, is left out.

This could backfire, but in fact it has the result of making us feel at one with this insecure young woman as she without intent goes in search of self.

Coolamon Girl is a thoroughly enjoyable read and one which will stir memories of the times for Boomers.

Just a wee note for your diaries that Dianne will be appearing with fellow Canberra writers Biff Ward and Jenni Savigny at The Yass Book Store on 12 November at a Love Your Bookshop Day event.

Barbie Robinson is co-founder and a content creator for Living Arts Canberra, a not-for-profit media outfit supporting arts and community in the Canberra region and books worldwide through its website, podcast interviews and a 24/7 internet radio station.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.