A small girl is secure in the love of her parents and her toy dog, Brownie. Her parents work very hard in Australia, but are scarred by the memories of the war that forced them to flee their homeland. Her mother was a teacher, her father a farmer, but here in Australia, they take the jobs they can find. The girl (who is unnamed) notes that her father works very hard and her mother seldom smiles. Except on Sundays when they take a trip out of the city to where they see the ‘ships in the fields’. Illustrations are soft, loose and whimsical watercolours and pencil, apart from the picnic tablecloth endpapers, bright red and white check.
On the surface, Ships in the Field is a story about a young girl wanting a pet dog. But there is so much more here. The girl is the child of European refugees, who now struggle to establish a new home in Australia. With few words, the reader paints a picture of the challenges faced by families who flee with little but their clothes and who must reinvent themselves to find a place in their new country. Anna Pignataro’s soft illustrations tell their own story of both sadness and hope. This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book which will provide the basis for conversations about migrants from all over the world. Highly recommended for pre-school and early- to mid-primary readers.
Ships in the Field, Susanne Gervay Anna Pignataro
Ford Street Publishing 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author