Always, by Anna Pignataro

Underneath a big old elm Oli asked, ‘Mamma, how long will you love me?’
‘Always,’ Mamma smiled.
‘How long is always?’ Oli asked.
’Miles and miles forever,’ said Mamma.

In the age-old way of young children, Oli wants to know that his mother loves him. But ‘always’ is a concept beyond his grasp. With patience and tenderness, Mamma explains – as magic as a starry night…as wild as a windy day…as wondrous as a winter snow…. Mamma focuses on the small wonders of the world around them, and their stability, as she reassures her son of the strength of her love.

Always is a beautiful tribute to parenthood and a gentle story which mother and child will cherish together. It is Anna Pignataro’s first effort as author/illustrator, having already forged a reputation as illustrator. The watercolour illustrations bear her gentle touch, with Oli and mother depicted as teddy style bears. The binding of the book – hardcover with an imitation cloth finish and gold stamped lettering, makes it especially suitable as a gift for a newborn baby.

Always is a divine offering which is likely to become a much-loved classic.

Always, by Anna Pignataro
Scholastic Australia, 2006

The Friends of Apple Street, by Anna Pignataro

Near Rippling Lake is Apple Street. That’s where the six friends Pug, Queenie, Lucy, Mango, Bella and Eliza live.

The sun is shining in Apple Street and we see each of the six friends alone, doing the things that each likes to do. But when it starts to rain, the six come together to play and splash in the puddles, before all going to Lucy’s house for tea and cupcakes.

The Friends of Apple Street is a vibrant picture book for very young children, full of cute animal characters and with a simple tale of friendship. Adult readers might like to see the story as an allegory about how friends come together during rainy times, but kids will just enjoy seeing the friends playing in puddles and having a tea party.

Pignataro uses a combination of watercolour and collage to create bright illustrations which have plenty in them to appeal to young viewers. Older children might enjoy the fact that Pignataro has created simple characters which a child could draw for him/herself, with reasonable success.

The Friends of Apple Street is a lovely book.

The Friends of Apple Street, written and illustrated by Anna Pignataro
Lothian, 2006

Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro

When Hanna and her busy mother go for a quick walk, Hanna sees a litte red bear sitting alone on a wall outside an office building. He seems to be lost. Back at home, Hanna can’t stop worrying about the bear, especially when it gets windy and, the next day, wet.

Hanna’s mother is too busy to go and check on the bear, but Hanna knows what it’s like to be afraid, so she sneaks out and goes looking for him. When she finds him, wet and bedraggled, she takes him home to her worried mother.

Little Red Bear is a story about a girl and a toy bear, but it is also about reassurance and connectedness. Hanna forms a connection with the bear, relating to its being alone and uncared for. When she runs away to rescue the bear, she also learns that her busy mother does care for her. The warmth that she feels when she holds the bear in front of the fire comes from more than the feeling of having a new toy – it is, more importantly, from the reassurance of knowing she is loved.

The rich water colour illustrations by Anna Pignataro enrich this calm, heart-warming story. Hanna and the bear add colour to the muted beiges and olives of the stormy landscape, with a visual connection between the two forged by the almost-red brown of Hanna’s hair just a little darker the red of the bear. Hanna’s house and mother are similarly drab in tonings, with Hanna being the only colour in the house, until the arrival of the bear.

This is such a gentle story that youngsters are unlikely to conciously realise the lesson of reassurance that it holds, but parent readers will be sure to take note of the message that is there for adults.

Little Red Bear, by Penny Matthews and Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, First Published 2003, this edition 2005

Dancing Night, Tonight, by Ian Bone

Every Tuesday night Millie’s Mama goes out dancing. Millie stays home with Dad, but that’s okay because Millie has dancing night at home.

Mama and Millie put on their matching dresses, their shiny red dancing shoes and put ribbons in their hair. Then Mama goes out while Millie dances with Papa in the loungeroom.

Soon, though, doubts creep in. What if Mama can’t get home, or forgets to come home, or – worst of all – doesn’t want to come home? Gently her father reminds her of the links she shares with her mother, sending the fears dancing on their way, until Millie’s mother comes home with the final reassurance.

Dancing Night, Tonight is a gentle picture book from writer Ian Bone and illustrator Anna Pignataro. Pignataro’s illustrations, using a combination of pencil, water colour, ink and gouache, create an almost dream-like quality to the story and echo the gentleness of the text.

A perfect bed-time story.

Dancing Night, Tonight
, by Ian Bone, illustrated by Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, 2003