Circle, by Jeannie Baker

In a place where mud and sand become sea…
a godwit with white wing patches
flies up with his flock.
The moment is right
for the long journey north.

A godwit leaves a sandy shore, knowing its is time to journey north. Joining his flock, it flies day and night until he knows it is time to stop for food and rest. Later, replenished, the godwit continues his journey until the flock reach their northern home and he goes alone to his remembered place. Attracting a mate, the pair breed and produce chicks. Eventually, though he knows it is time to rejoin the flock, feed and begin the long flight south to return to the beach he started from.

Circle is a beautiful picture book exploring through text and amazing art the migration of the godwits, through the perspective of a single bird. Readers are given a wonderful insight into the challenges faced on the long journey, as well as through the breeding season. The story is also bookended by hints of the story of a boy who witnesses the departure and return of the bird. AT he front of the book, preceding the title page,w e see the boy bedbound, wishing he could fly. In the opening spreads he watches the birds from a wheelchair,pushed to the edge of the beach. In the closing scene, as the godwits return, he is again on the beach, with the aid of a pair of crutches which are discarded as he tries to stop his dog chasing the birds.

With the amazing collage artwork for which Baker is known and loves, gentle text and so much detail to explore and discuss, Circle will delight young readers, teachers and adult readers.

Circle, by Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781406338010

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

I’ve been a fan of Jeannie Baker’s amazing collage artwork and stunning picture books for years. Once again Jeannie has come up with what is a brilliant and unique picture book that takes us into the lives of two very different boys and their families. One is an Australian family in Sydney and the other a Moroccan family in the Valley of Roses.

The colour and detail makes this a stunning book that highlights the differences between the lifestyles of the two families. It gives insights into a life that will be familiar to many of us and one that is not familiar. Yet I loved the modern example of the mobile phone near the TVs on the Moroccan market page with its vegetables and grains laid out on the ground around which people, sheep and chooks wander.

I can’t imagine the hours and hours of work that have gone to make up this incredible collages constructed initially on wooden baseboard to which were added sand, earth, clay, paints, fabric, wool, plastic, vegetation and tin. The completed collages, Jeannie says, were preserved and coloured and then photographed with the reproduced images appearing in the book.

While I understand the logical idea of why it is set out as it is, my one quibble is that because of this layout where each text opens out from the centre, it is awkward to handle. I found it best to be able to open it on a flat surface rather than to try and hold it in the hands. That small quibble aside, this is a stunning and amazingly crafted picture book that is sure to delight many in homes, schools and libraries and feature in the next CBCA awards.

Just maybe it might make people realise that though many things are different, some things are the same no matter where the family lives.

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2010
RRP $39.95

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
Dale’s latest books are Lights, Camera, Action and Saltspray Idol.
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