Crusts, by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley

Jacob refused to eat his crusts.
His Mum said they would make his hair curly.
Jacob didn’t want curly hair.
She said they would make him sleep better.
he didn’t believe her.
His mum said it was a waste,
so Jacob saved them
in a box in the dark,
safe and cool in his shed.


Jacob doesn’t like crusts, and refuses to believe his mum when she says they are good for him. But when she says not eating them is wasteful, he decides to keep them, sure they will be useful for something. That something is surprising: a tiny, far away planet is falling apart. Pieces keep crumbling off.  Three intrepid travellers head off, looking for help. When they find Jacob’s crusts, they are sure they have found their answer. But they are tiny aliens. The problems is how to communicate with Jacob and get him to figure out a way to get the crusts to their planet.

Crusts is a humorous, imaginative picture book offering which young crust-avoiders will love. With  Jacob’s story and the aliens’ story delineated using separate illustration panels and distinct dialogue boxes  for the aliens, the book has elements of a graphic novel blended with more traditional picture book style. Jacob doesn’t see the tiny aliens, so their means of getting across whay they need has to be visual – through diagrams and clever layout of his toys.

This is not the first time author Parker and illustrator Ottley have worked together for a satisfying picture book, and hopefully it won’t be the last.

Crusts, by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley



Teacup, by Rebecca Young & Matt Ottley

TeacupOnce there was a boy who had to leave home…and find another.
In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket.
In his teacup he carried some earth from where he used to play.

Teacup is the story of a displaced boy who travels in search of a new home. His teacup yields a surprise – a tree that grows as he lives upon the sea. Eventually he finds an island, where he sets up home and waits for company to arrive.

From the first page the stunning images of rolling clouds, roiling seas, massive whales and more draw the eye away from the text which, printed in white, almost disappears into the page – echoing the very understated nature of the narrative. The story is slightly whimsical – with the idea of a tree growing in a teacup, and the absence of any adults or explanation for the boy’s need to find a new home – which enriches rather than diminishing the parallels with the plight of refugees who take to the seas looking for better lives. There is plenty of room to discuss both what is happening in the story and these parallels.

The combination of Rebecca Young’s gentle text with Matt Ottley’s incredible artwork makes for a breathtaking whole.

Teacup, by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743623848

Available from good bookstores or online.

Luke's Way of Looking, by Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley.

Whenever Mr Barraclough saw one of Luke’s pictures, he went off his brain.
“Why do you do this, boy?” he yelled.
Luke didn’t know. So he said nothing.

Luke's Way of Looking (Walker Classics)

All the boys in Luke’s class see things the same way – except Luke. So every Friday in Art class, all the boys paint what is in front of them – but Luke paints things the way he sees them, with bright colours, or noses and ears in the wrong places. When he does this, Mr Barraclough goes ballistic. Even Luke’s class mates think he’s odd, and Luke feels like he does’t fit in. Until he visits an anrt gallery and feels right at home. Suddenly his whole world changes.

Luke’s Way of Looking is a celebration of difference and of creativity from the award-wining pairing of Nadia Wheatley and Matt Ottley. First published in 1999 and now re-released as part of the Walker Classics series this is a beautiful and important picture book offering.

Luke’s Way of Looking , by Nadia Wheatley & Matt Ottley
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 9781921977725

Available from good bookstores or online .

Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley

Given that this is a large-format hardcover book with colour illustrations, one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking Requiem for a Beast is a picture book. However, any further examination quickly reveals that this offering cannot be so simply classified. Billed by the publishers as a graphic novel, Requiemis a unique blend of word, illustration and even music in a combination which almost defies description.

One of the most breathtaking aspects of this work is that it is all the work of one man – Matt Ottley who wrote the words, painted and drew the illustrations (in various media) and also composed the music on the accompanying CD (with the exception of some traditional Bundjalung songs). Together, these different forms explore different stories – that of a young man working on an outback station coming face to face with a rogue bull, the story of his childhood, and the stories of dispossessed Aboriginal people. The stories come together as the young man comes to realise that the errors of the past must be confronted before the future can be faced,.

Ottley’s full colour illustrations, using oil on canvas, oil on paper and coloured pencil include double page spread with minimal text, small cells with accompanying text, and spreads with no text and several smaller cells telling parts of the story and back story. Mythical beasts, close ups of horses and cattle, white space and more work together to create a stunning visual whole. The text is similarly diverse, from tracts of narrative, to Latin and Aboriginal language.

This is a ground-breaking work which a short review cannot do justice. It should be read and listened to and studied by all with a love of words, and art and music.


Requiem for a Beast

Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley
Lothian, 2007

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.