The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever

When the Captain finds the derelict Osprey, he sees beyond the neglect to the fine workmanship beneath, and decides to restore her. At work in the boatshed he is visted by young Thomas Stevenson, who wants to help him in the restoration. When the Captain sees the boy’s dedication and willingness to work, he agrees to let him help.

The restoration is slow and meticulous. First months, then years pass as the pair work to restore the boat to its former glory. At the same time the pair develop a close friendship, and the Captain teaches the boy all he knows about the sea – how to navigate, how to guide a boat and how to live at sea.

Finally the boat is finished. The Captain and Thomas – who is now a young man – launch it, to the cheers of well-wishers. Out on the water the Captian has a surprise for his young friend – he has registered Thomas as the Master of the Osprey. The Captain tells him he has earned the honour, and entrusts the boat to him. His own time is drawing to a close.

The Call of the Osprey is a poignant and beautiful story about dedication, loyalty and firendship. Author Norman Jorgensen is a master storyteller – spinning a tale which touches and educates as it entertains. His pairing with illustrator Brian Harrison-Lever is ideal. Harrison-Lever’s depictions of the characters, the boat and the sea, echo the mood of the story perfectly. From the seascapes on the endpapers to the character studies of his close ups, the tone and detail of his art complements the story.

Jorgensen and Harrison-Lever’s previous picture book In Flanders Field won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year in 2003, the country’s highest honour for a picture book. This new offering is similarly exciting.

The Call of the Osprey, by Norman Jorgensen and Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2004

Two for Older Readers

Two newly released picture books are challenging the perception that picture books are just for preschoolers. Both books will appeal to older children and would be useful in the school setting.

In Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle (Banana Books), a dog named Kaffy explores an abandoned brickworks, where he meets an old man who once worked in the brickworks. The man speaks to Kaffy of his loneliness and loss of purpose. The magical events which follow, lead to Kaffy helping to get the brickworks reopened in a different guise, and the Doomie to find a sense of purpose.

Told in a simple rhyming structure and complemented by simple sketches and colour illustrations by Harold Tiefel, the story combines a sense of history with a feeling of fantasy and fun. This would be an excellent book for exploring subjects of aging, redundancy, and valuing our past.

From Fremantle Arts Centre Press comes In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen, another book with a historical focus. This story provides a compelling counterpoint to images often seen of war, depicting its senselessness and inhumanity. The book tells the story of a homesick soldier who , in the temporary ceasefire which comes with Christmas day, spies a robin caught on some wire in no man’s land. One wing flaps helplessly as the robin tries to escape.

Rather than enjoy the lull in fighting and remain in safety, the soldier risks walking towards German trenches to rescue the robin, which would die without help. Soldiers from both sides watch in disbelief as he risks his own life to save that of the robin.

The story is presented in picture book format, with beautiful illustrations from Brian-Harrison-Lever, perfectly complementing the text . Again, this book would be an excellent classroom tool, especially when dealing with topics relating to war.

Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle, Illustrated by Harold Tiefel
Banana Books, 2002.

In Flanders Fields, by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002.