The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

Before You Forget by Julia Lawrinson

Someone yelling wakes me up. I have no idea what time it is. I jump out of bed and head for the kitchen. I almost collide with Mum, who’s also coming out of her room.
‘Go back to bed,’ she whispers.
I don’t Dad is standing in the middle of the kitchen. The fluorescent light is on and he’s in his undies. They bag a little around his arse. He’s pointing at the clock.
‘I’ve got to go to work!’ he’s yelling. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’
‘Honey,’ Mum says, ‘you don’t need to go to work yet.’
‘Don’t lie to me!’ he roars. ‘I’m supposed to be there!’
‘Honey,’ Mum repeats soothingly. ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning. You go back to bed and it’ll be time to go in another few hours.’
‘Why are you doing this to me?’ he yells. ‘What am I doing here? What is this? Who do you think you are?’

Amelia is in Year 12, trying to impress her art teacher, navigating an increasingly unpredictable home life, and trying to work out what’s going on with her friends, particularly her closest friend, Gemma. Her dad is changing, forgetful, angrier more often. Her mum has her own adjustments to make. To Amelia, it’s as though everything she has ever known is changing. And she’s not quite sure what to do. But the days pass, whether or not she wants them to. In the growing chaos and confusion, Amelia begins to work out who she is.

Everyone says Year 12 is big, but no one could have predicted Amelia’s year. It’s not just the work, or growing up. It’s like someone threw her into a tornado and all she can see is a blur. Relationships are at the heart of ‘Before You Forget’, those with family and with old friends and new. ‘Before You Forget’ becomes the song of change, of evolving, of reality. Amelia’s art practice, her struggle to communicate via canvas is a metaphor for her struggle to navigate and understand her changing world. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.

Before You Forget, Julia Lawrinson
Penguin 2017
ISVN: 9780143574071

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose

A hush descended on the atrium. It became evident that the young man was weeping. It wasn’t a dramatic gesture. Tears were running down his face while his glistening angel eyes continued to gaze at the woman. After some time, the woman began to weep in the same silent passive way. the weeping went on as if they could both see they must settle for losing something. Levin looked about and realised the atrium had quietly filled again and everyone was staring at the two people.

Arky Levin’s life is unraveling. His wife has made him keep a devstating promise which means he may never see her again. A film score composer and musician, he finds himself unable to create music. he has cut himself off from his friends and even his daughter. when he wanders into MoMA, he finds himself watching an installation performance. Artist Marina Abramovic is sitting, for seventy five days, staring into the eyes of strangers. Arky finds himself drawn back to the gallery time and again and, gradually, he starts to piece ogether his life away from the gallery.

The Museum of Modern Love is an absorbing, moving story of art, life and love. Multiple perspectives explore Arky’s viewpoint, as well as the stories of other observers and of the artist herself. Readers are invited to consider the significance of art and its connection to life itself.

Inspired by the life and art of Marina Abramovic,the story is an interpretation both of the artist and of the impact of her work.


The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760291860

Where the Light Falls, by Gretchen Shirm

Andrew read the message through twice. His eyes skipped over the words as if by reading them quickly he could reduce their impact. But it was too late. Missing, he thought. Perhaps that meant she simply didn’t want to be found. With Kirsten, something like that seemed possible. Maybe she had decided she needed some time away from the world. And yet there was a finality to Stewart’s tone; was he hinting at something more definite?

Three years ago, Andrew left Australia for a new life in Berlin – to reinvigorate his artistic photography career, but also to finally put an end to his relationship with Kirsten, his troubled ex-girlfriend. Now he has a wonderful new relationship and a big exhibition to prepare for. But an email from a friend telling him of Kirsten’s disappearance impels him to return to Australia, seeking some answers to where she has gone. As he tries to investigate he also confronts issues in his own past.

In Melbourne he meets a damaged girl who is a perfect subject for his photography, which focuses on broken things. Working with the girl as he also works through his experiences with Kirsten and his relationship with his mother, leads him to question his motivation and his career.

Where the Light Falls is an artful novel of self-discovery and of confronting the past. Andrew has been damaged by the childhood loss of his father and its impact on his mother, and must confront these in order to move forward – with his new relationship, which his trip to Australia puts at risk, and with his career. Readers will come to care for Andrew, even as they will be frustrated at times by his actions.

A moving read.

Where the Light Falls , by Gretchen Shirm
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760113650

The Super Lettering Book

Think you know how to write the alphabet?
We’ll teach you how to DRAW it.

Parents/teachers, if you grew up in the 1980s, you might remember the joy of lettering books, which helped to make school projects and assignments a tad more presentable, even if you weren’t artistic. The Super Lettering Book brings back that joy for a new generation.

With themed alphabets including travel (Going Places), Educational (Cool for School), Food (Snack Time) and more, as wel as tips for using the alphabets as springboard to extra creativity, there is plenty here for the least artistic to trace/copy and the more creative to use as a springboard to their own ideas. There are also templates for common words such as ‘awesome’ and ‘selfie’.

Lots of fun, The Super Lettering Book will appeal to primary aged kids.

The Super Lettering Book
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016
ISBN 9781760128715

Harry's Secret, by Anita Heiss

Harry takes a seat, all alone, and in one quick second, grabs a palm-sized sketchpad he’s got wedged between his jeans and stomach, and pulls a small HB pencil from behind his ear. He starts to draw quickly, nervously checking that he’s not being watched. Harry knows everyone thinks skating is cool, but he also knows that his best friends think drawing isn’t.

Harry loves hanging out with his mates – skateboarding, or camping, or swimming at the pool. But he has a secret – he also loves to draw, and is pretty good at it, too. The problem is, his mate Gav thinks art is dumb, and Harry really wants to be cool. So he draws in secret, and doesn’t tell anyone what he’s doing– until he sees an advertisement for the local art competition and knows that he has to enter it.

Harry’s Secret is an upbeat novel for junior readers. Harry and his friends are funny, warm-hearted and energetic, always on the go and looking out for each other. Harry’s dilemma is one many kids will relate to – whether it’s an artistic talent or some other hobby or ability that they fear being teased for.

Good stuff.

Harry’s Secret, by Anita Heiss
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781760152024

The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan

9781760111038.jpg’These little figures of slay, with their simplified features, their single attributes, are perfect realisations of the strangeness of the characters they represent.’ PHILLIP PULLMAN

If you are expecting smiling princesses or Disneyfied beasts in this collection of images interpreting Grimms’ fairytales, then you are probably unfamiliar with the work of its creator Shaun Tan. But if you love Tan’s work, then you will adore this amazing offering.

Tan created sculpture images to accompany a collection of Grimms’ fairy tales edited by Phillip Pullman, and The Singing Bones presents these images plus more, each accompanied by a short extract from the relevant fairytale. The sculptures, created with paper-mache and clay and coloured with acrylics, oxidised metal powder, wax and shoe-polish and could well be the relics from an archaeological dig, an effect Tan was hoping to create. Some are whimsical, others are frightening, but all are breathtaking. Readers who may be unfamiliar with the tales will probably be keen to go and find them for themselves, but in the meantime , a back-of-book index gives a precis of each tale.

A wonderful collectors’ item suitable for all ages.

The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan with a foreword by Philip Pullman
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760111038

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art by Sophie Norsa

Lisa and her cat Picasso watched from the café

as artists created their paintings.

One day the gallery hung all its paintings.

Their colours were like a rainbow on the wall.

Lisa took Picasso to see the pictures,

but when her back was turned

he ran away.

Lisa and her cat Picasso watched from the café

as artists created their paintings.

One day the gallery hung all its paintings.

Their colours were like a rainbow on the wall.

Lisa took Picasso to see the pictures,

but when her back was turned

he ran away.

Lisa and her cat, Picasso, watch artists at work outside the Art Gallery every day. When finally the art is framed and hung in the gallery, Lisa takes Picasso to have a closer look. But Picasso vanishes. So begins an imaginary adventure. Lisa searches through the gallery experiencing the worlds of great artists. Though she cannot see him, Picasso is present in each opening. So too is a small tortoise. Lisa walks through the work of Rousseau and Monet, van Gogh and Seurat. And finally, Lisa finds Picasso, back at the café for another treat. And then it’s time to create her own art, inspired by what she’s experienced. Illustrations fill the spreads and threaten to spill out.

Lisa Absolutely Loves Art offers young readers and artists a closer look at famous paintings. Lisa immerses herself in each page, almost accidentally in her search for her cat. She experiences the paintings with all senses, being drenched in rain, joining dancers for rehearsal in a wooden-floored hall. Even if young readers are not familiar with the paintings depicted (and there’s a list of them with images in the final pages) they will enjoy the romp through the pages. Teachers and parents may use this book as an introduction to art and artists, and young artists may be inspired to create their own masterpieces. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.


Lisa Absolutely Loves Art, Sophie Norsa New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781925059045

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller