Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn ill Gaye Chapman

‘Look what I’ve found,’ little Georgie said.

‘It’s a secret message. For us!

It floated down from that tree.’

Incredibilia‘Look what I’ve found,’ little Georgie said.

‘It’s a secret message. For us!

It floated down from that tree.’

Three children are playing outside – or rather two are playing and a third is imagining, and wanting to draw others into her imaginative games. It seems there is no room in the playing of the pair for a third. Day after day, Georgie sees possibility in the world she encounters. Day after day, Max and Harriet become consumed by their own games. Only when Georgie decides to pursue the secret messages on her own, do the other two become curious. Now it is time for ‘Incredibilia to begin. Illustrations are created using graphite, coloured and watercolour pencils, and watercolours. Endpapers are of a coloured garden full of shapes that just might be hiding other things. Cover art shows all three children playing, including Georgie dressed in red, inviting attention. The back cover though, shows only Max and Harriet.

Max and Harriet are full of play, and while they don’t actively exclude Georgie, they are moving faster than her and have little time to give her and her ideas. Georgie begins by wanting to bring them to play with her, but when that proves difficult she decides that she will play by herself. This self-sufficiency gains their interest more than her words. All three children are enjoying free play, but Georgie’s is a play of the mind as well as the body.

Incredibilia is a celebration of quiet and contemplative play as well a reminder of the magic of the outdoors. Illustrations carry the wind, and with them, the joy of childhood. Recommended for pre- and early-primary.

Incredibilia, Libby Hathorn ill Gaye Chapman
Little Hare Books 2016 ISBN: 9781760125257

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Precious Little by Julie Hunt and Sue Moss

Precious Little wanted to fly
but she was only a circus hand.
She worked for the Light Fantastics. Every night she watched them flash through the air.
They walked the high wire and did swan dives and double somersaults way up in the big top.
They were brave and strong and they never looked down.

Precious Little is part of the circus, but not the part she’d like to be. While others tumble and spin in the air, she is cleaning shoes and retrieving fallen sequins. She tries, but her efforts are clumsy and awkward compared to these high-flyers. It seems she will never be more than an assistant. Others ask her to join their acts, but it’s an aerial performer she wants to be. Then her friends, Fat Chance and Tough Luck offer her the opportunity to try out her skills on a rope stretched across the top of their lucky dip. Gaye Chapman’s illustrations burst from the page, spinning and twirling like the best circus act. She uses every part of every page in an explosion of colour and movement. For Precious Little she used sepia ink line drawings, acrylic ink plus tea-stained paintings and collaged metallic papers.

Precious Little is a very rich offering. The co-written story is poetic and filled with wonderful names from Precious Little herself (which can be interpreted as nothing or everything) to Fat Chance and Tough Luck, faded old characters who mother Precious Little. The illustrations fill each opening, with text ribboning across and around the page, like the music that floats through a circus tent and beyond. The front endpapers show the circus tent and a high tower with both seen at a distance set in a road-crossed landscape. The end endpapers show the same landscape but Precious Little is now inside with her friends, part of the circus rather than a wishing observer. This a picture book for slightly older children, though younger readers will enjoy the rhythm of the language and the sumptuous illustrations.

Precious Little

Precious Little, Julie Hunt & Sue Moss, ill Gaye Chapman
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741751475

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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Little Blue, by Gaye Chapman

Little Blue has been lost for the longest time. Then Will finds her. All she wants to do is go home. Will wants to help her but it’s not easy. Her descriptions of the way home sound similar to Will’s way home, but as he brings her to the hills, the creek, the trees, family, they are not quite right. They cannot find the way to Little Blue’s home. Only when Will takes Little Blue to his home with Grandmother, do they find Little Blue’s home.

Gaye Chapman is both author and illustrator of Little Blue. From the four seasons of the front ‘end papers’ showing us how long Little Blue has been lost to the final endpaper detailing her return home, this is a beautiful book. The story is a simple one of a boy trying to help a lost girl find her way home. A small blue bird is on every page, guiding or accompanying the travelling pair. The girl’s way home and her home are by her account much grander than Will’s simple existence, yet he is the one who brings her home. She describes mountains, he describes hills. The reader is left to wonder at the accuracy of her description – perhaps she is exaggerating? On alternate pages Little Blue (in words and image) draws for Will a growing picture of her way home, The sketches provide clues for the reader as to the ending. These alternate openings have blue borders, as if to differentiate the world from the differing points of view. Will and Little Blue progress their way across the pages, emerging from a tunnel of trees near Will’s home. At the conclusion, both Little Blue and Will are safely home again. Recommended for 4+.

Little Blue, by Gaye Chapman
Little Hare 2008
ISBN: 9781921049989

Breakfast With Buddha, by Vashti Farrer

I climb up onto the roof.
I am higher than all the cats and dogs.
My tail twitches back and forth.
I am Sati. I am now top cat. I will wait here.

When a flood leaves Sati the cat homeless, she wonders who will feed her. She is used to being pampered and cared for, but when she finally finds refuge, in a monastery, there are other animals to share with. Sati wants to be top-cat and thinks she can wait for food to come to her. But this creates havoc. It is only the wisdom and patience of an old monk which makes Sati see what it means to be one among many.

Breakfast With Buddha is a delightful picture book offering which offers a peek at Buddhist traditions and lifestyle, and also has a lovely gentle lesson about dealing with conflict. The illustrations, by Gaye Chapman, feature lotus blossoms, bees and other images of nature, as well as oriental-influenced cats and dogs, a deliciously plump monk and the columns and features of the monastery, with lots of use of white backgrounds to keep the focus simple.

Lovely for school and home reading.

Breakfast With Buddha, by Vashti Farrer and Gaye Chapman
Scholastic, 2005

Heart of the Tiger, by Glenda Millard & Gaye Chapman

In a land with no trees lived an old man, a boy and wooden tiger called Tiger.

When the old man dies, the boy inherits the tiger. He loves the tiger and treats him well, taking him for walks and listening to what it says. When the tiger tells him that it is made from a branch of the last ever tree, the boy longs to see what a tree is, and to experience the sight and smell of green. The tiger tells him that he can do it, if he is prepared to make a sacrifice. The boy agrees and sacrifices the thing he most loves – the tiger – in order to bring green back to the treeless land.

Heart of the Tiger is a poignant and touching tale by award-winning author Glenda Millar and talented illustrator Gaye Chapman. The hard cover format and richly coloured illustrations make it a quality offering and Millard uses her words economically – her environmental theme is neither overstated nor hard to discern. The oriental feel of both word and picture allows readers to connect the fable with others of its genre.

This is Chapman’s first picture book, buts she is a seasoned artist and uses a blend of techniques to subtly support and extend the text. The image of Tiger, who has at this point has been destroyed, looking over the boy’s shoulder as he waters the ground, is especially evocative. The contrasting endpapers – with a barren landscape at the beginning and a green one at the end – are also richly rendered.

Heart of the Tiger, with its gentle, yet evocative text, will be just as enjoyable for home reading as in the school setting.

Heart of the Tiger, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Gaye Chapman
Scholastic, 2004