When Ruby is given shiny, red roller-skates for her birthday she is sure that learning to skate will be easy peasy, but it’s not!
Easy Peasy is an upbeat, high-energy story that conveys the thrill of roller-skating while also touching on some important themes like persistence, resilience and learning to learn. The author has a gentle and genuine voice. The heights of Ruby’s excitement, her initial instinct to give up when it is hard and her desire to roller-skate all by herself, without instruction, will be familiar to many readers. Ruby’s independent approach may make learning to roller skate tricky, but she is well supported to achieve her goals; Dad’s persistent yet kind attempts to offer instruction model a laid-back and patient style of parenting that many kids will appreciate. The positive and exciting outcome of the story sees Ruby manage a busy roller-skating rink filled with kids and music, making this an encouraging book for young readers finding it hard to meet those challenges close to their own hearts.
The artwork for Easy Peasy is super bright and fun, making sure the themes of persistence, resilience and learning are always child friendly and appealing. The psychedelic rainbow stripe rolling over the end pages is repeated at key stages in the book to underscore Ruby’s wibbly, wobbly moments on the roller skates and her eventual success. It is fun to spot and makes the challenges and achievements stand out. Ruby’s enticing pair of red, sparkly roller-skates also feature on every page, making it easy to follow the central character, her highs and lows. Lastly, Kids will have a ball spotting Ruby’s pet bird (unmentioned in the text) who is as keen as Ruby to learn a new skill!
Coral Vass (author) and Nicky Johnston (illustrator)
EK Books: 2022
Reviewed by Viv Young
Jorn’s Magnificent Imagination tells the surprising story of the architect who designed, arguably, the most famous building in Australia—the Sydney Opera House. It focuses especially on Jorn’s creative engagement with the natural world and the disparate range of responses to his creativity. While Jorn always has supporters, especially in his parents, even from an early age he suffers criticism, yet persists.
Picture books emphasising resilience are increasingly popular and Jorn’s Magnificent Imagination is a fantastic addition to this corpus because of its subtlety and its basis in fact. Jorn’s resilience in the face of quite public disapproval is an uplifting story for anyone—young or old—with its emphasis on believing in oneself and one’s talents. While the story is a wonderful vehicle for discussing resilience, it is also a fascinating biography suitable for young children and useful for parents or teachers wishing to explore a key Australian architectural monument. The end pages include a timeline of Jorn Utzon’s career that provides additional facts. The dedication to Jorn and his family also draws attention to the ‘real’ people behind the story, potentially creating an interesting topic of conversation for kids starting to think about history, fiction and non-fiction.
The artwork for Jorn’s Magnificent Imagination makes fascinating use of brown and grey shades in spreads that deal both with Jorn’s design work and the media response to it. This strategic use of sepia tones conveys a sense of memory and nostalgia appropriate to the subject matter and useful for discussing time and history with young children. The colours are otherwise light and bright; they draw out the fun and joy that Jorn’s young imagination brings to himself, his parents and the world. The text emphasises the way in which Jorn’s environment and everyday life spark his imagination but leaves open the influences on his finished architectural work. The illustrations run with this open-ended narrative, creating opportunities for children to ponder the natural influences on the artist and to consider what forms and shapes may be worth noticing in their own environment.
Jorn’s Magnificent Imagination is a moving account of a tumultuous creative career that may well inspire young readers to believe in and forge their own creative connection with the world around them.