Written by Allison Paterson and Illustrated in Nancy Bevington
Allison Paterson is a well-established name in children’s literature. Known for her well-researched and personal non-fiction narrative accounts of life in the past. From the evocative Shearing Time about life on the rural farm to Granny’s Place about 1960’s childhood and intergenerational bonds to her highly acclaimed military publications, including Anzac Sons and award-winning Australia Remembers, Allison captures the essence of an era and makes it relatable to her young audiences.
So what stands out about this latest release is that it is so completely unique from Allison’s other books. I Wonder takes its reader on a rebirth type story of a little wooden toy sailboat left abandoned on a beach. The tiny toy lies forgotten in the sand by its young owner for days, weeks, and months, till eventually being discovered and reclaimed by another child whose family help him restore the boat to being as good as new. The reader is left with the big question at the end; ‘I wonder…’. Additionally, the story brings in the story of ocean pollution as the little boat meets many other discarded items during its time in the sand. From plastic bags to take-away cups, to chip packets, leaving the boat wondering whether it too is rubbish, waste, or litter. Without any didactic overtones, Paterson manages to draw readers attention to the consequence of littering and its impact on our environment. With end pages at the back of the book sharing facts about pollution and tips for how to take action to protect our planet, I Wonder will be a well-chosen resource for any library bookshelf.
Nancy Bevington’s clever illustrations complement the narrative beautifully. The colour palette has a vintage feel to this very contemporary story and Big Sky Publishing have given the cover a real pop with the Spot UV effects. This story has the feel of a fable to it yet treads the line between being too ‘harsh’ or ‘telling’ by using Paterson’s poetic language and the soft lines in Bevington’s illustrations. Although the subject matter is very removed from Allison Paterson’s previous stories, there are aspects that connect this latest picture book to them. Firstly, there is the feature of a story with a purpose, giving the reader a new perspective to daily life, then there is the theme of time, a common motif in Paterson’s works, though hardly surprising considering her love of history. Moreover, there is the focus on creating a new perspective for a familiar setting, a favourite technique Allison uses whether it be stories about annual remembrance days or memories of familiar childhood experiences, or even like in I Wonder, to days spent on the beach. All in all, this book is a beautifully presented cautionary tale from an expert communicator and passionate writer. Allison’s publisher; Big Sky Publishing, is known for taking on a theme to build a series and this theme of caring for the world is one of their latest and most important ones at that. I Wonder as a perfect fit is Big Sky’s Caring For Our World series and this innovative publisher has done well to recognise this; thus making their own stance for environmental protection through the knowledge and understanding that are gently exposed in this series.