Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her.
Claire had said goodbye to all her favourite people
and flown a long way from home.
Everything was different, the smells, the sky, the sounds.
Everything seemed difficult.
Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her. And that is exactly what happens. Claire is waved to by a little girl on the back of a bike, and smiled at by a boy in a restaurant. When she meets the girl again in the markets, she knows she has a new friend. But it is when Claire finds herself lost on a walk that her new friend, Kieu, actually finds her, and shows her the way home.
The Red Bridge is a sumptuous picture book about friendship and about change. Claire moves across the world, but the fears she feels are just as real for children going through any move, or even other changes in their lives. How will I make friends? How will I know how to do things? How will I get around? Claire is guided by her mother, who doesn’t express her own fears at the same changes, yet perhaps best shows them in her triumphant cheer when they manage to get across a busy road together. But Mum also has the courage to let Claire explore her new neighbourhood after they’ve become familiar, a nice touch which is perhaps a gentle reminder for nervous parents to let go.
Illustrated in generously rich reds, browns and golden tones using Dunstan’s delightful mixed media collage, The Red Bridge is a beautiful offering suitable for early childhood readers.
The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan
Windy Hollow Books, 2011
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
This is Rose.
Rose has a best friend. Her name is Olive.
Their families live in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia.
There are lots of pandanus palms here. Pandanus palms have tall, thin trunks with long spiky leaves at the top.
Rose joins her Aboriginal friend Olive on a trip into the bush with her mother and Aunty to collect pandanus and ‘colour’. With them, Olive’s mother Karrang will make baskets, mats and bags. Rose and Olive help to harvest the pandanus and search for the roots and berries that will make the dyes to colour the pandanus. They rest in the middle of the day, finding shade by a river. It’s picnic time. And fishing time. They catch a big barramundi for their dinner. Back at Olive’s house, Rose learns how the berries and roots are prepared to make the colour that will dye the dried pandanus. Later they watch the older women make beautiful baskets and make their own small mats.
Collecting Colour provides a fascinating insight into traditional basket-making from the point of view of a small non-indigenous child. There is a wonderful sense of timelessness about the process, despite the use of a car to traverse the countryside. This is experiential learning in action! The two children are fully involved in searching for and harvesting the leaves, roots and berries that are the purpose of the journey. Collecting Colour is a large format hardcover picture book. Each opening is saturated with colour, the images created with a mixture of collage and paint. Endpapers show a range of colourful baskets and mats. Despite the information contained, this is not a text book. It is a lovely gentle story of the learning process and a small non-indigenous girl’s introduction to an age-old skill. Highly recommended for lower- to mid-primary readers and anyone interested in how pandanus bags are made.
Collecting Colour, Kylie Dunstan
Lothian Books 2008