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"What makes a children's book character memorable? Is it their personality, the story they tell or the way they're depicted by the illustrator? Is it that they make us laugh or cry? Or is it that we can identify with them?"
From Snugglepot and Cuddlepie to the green sheep and Pig the Pug, Australian children's book characters have always delighted the young and young-at-heart. Get together with old friends and meet new ones in this lighthearted retrospective of much-loved characters from over a century of publishing illustrated books for children.
Short commentaries at the back of the book shed light on efforts to preserve the creation and history of these characters, with Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll describing the extensive children's literature collections in the National Library of Australia and Dr Belle Alderman the mission and work of the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature.
Years ago, when Jackie French was asked by one of my students about how she created her characters, she told the class that the most important thing was to create someone that the reader cared enough about to want to know what happens to them. For without that emotional investment in the character, they won't bother turning the pages till the end of the story.
So what is it that makes a character in a story so memorable that often as adults, we remember our childhood favourites, even to the point that we pass on those stories to our own children? Why they resonate with us is as individual as the characters themselves, but in this fabulous book, Dr Reeder has collected together some of the most well-known characters from Australian children's literature, characters that have resonated with so many that we instantly know who they are and are transported back to those childhood memories with love and affection and a warm feeling of well-being.
Whether it's Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Mulga Bill, Grug, Koala Lou, Leonie, the Paw, or even the more recent Mr Huff, each is gathered here in chronological order to tell their stories, share their debuts, successes and encores so that we can not only get to know our favourites a little better, but also discover new ones waiting to be friends too. And perhaps consider who we might add to the collection.
Coinciding with the launch of the new NLA exhibition, Story Time: Australian Children's Literature presented in conjunction with the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, this is another addition to the preservation of the creation and history of children's literature in Australia and complements the books, manuscripts, illustrations and ephemera from the NLA's extensive collections alongside significant loans of the exhibition, which is free and open until February 9, 2020. A must-see and a must-buy for anyone with a love of Australia's favourite storytime characters. Most definitely Australia: Story Country.