Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas

It is midnight. The young prince has been hunting in the forest with a party of friends. Now he is alone and deep in thought. It is the eve of the grand ball that the Queen is holding in his honour. He must choose a bride from all the princesses in the land. His heart is heavy.

The story of Swan Lake is known and loved. In this picture book version, the story is set out first in text, as it is in the ballet. Each of the three acts is summarised on a single page, then shown in mostly monotone illustrations in the following pages. In the first act, a prince meets the Swan Queen, who has been cursed by a Sorcerer. In Act 2, the ball proceeds and the Prince is bewitched by the Sorcerer’s daughter. In Act 3, he realises he has been tricked and pursues the Swan Queen.

Swan Lake’ is simply glorious, from the swan embrace on the front cover, through the drama and tragedy, all the way to the final dramatic image. Setting it in the three acts allows those familiar with the story to ready themselves for the next instalment, and for those new to the story to absorb the words before tipping headlong into the romance of the images. It is no surprise that the story spills across 48 pages rather than the more familiar 32 pages. Colour is used sparingly and with great insight and skill. Notes at the end give some hints of techniques used to create images. Highly recommended for lovers of dance and this story; for artists and creators; and for readers of all ages.

Swan Lake, Anne Spudvilas
Allen & Unwin 2017
ISBN: 9781743318454

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Baby Days, by Ian Bone

Baby days are busy days. Baby doesn’t just eat, sleep and play. He sees wonder in everything he sees and does.

From waking with the sun to riding on a broom-stick horsie and sailing in a tub, the reader views the baby’s day through his rich imagination.

Ian Bone’s text is lyrical yet very simple, floating its way through the book as the baby floats his way through his day. The illustrations of Anne Spudvilas, in rich pastel tones, match the mood of the text perfectly. Spudvilas works in oils and watercolour ink washes to recreate the gentleness of baby’s world. The baby is delightfully gender-neutral.

Baby Days is perfect for gentle bedtime reading and would be a perfect gift for a new born or for a Christening.

Baby Days, by Ian Bone, illustrated by Anne Spudvilas
Omnibus, 2003