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Reviewed by:
  • Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things: A Celebration of Australian Illustrated Children's Books
  • Claudia Söffner
Juliet O'Conor , Bottersnikes and Other Lost Things: A Celebration of Australian Illustrated Children's Books. Carlton, Victoria: The Miegunyah Press 2009 262pp ISBN 9780522856514 AUS $59.99

As its title suggests, this beautifully produced tome traces the history of illustrated books for children published in Australia within the past two centuries. Juliet O'Conor, who is responsible for the collection of children's literature held at the State Library of Victoria, has drawn upon this "most comprehensive public collection of Australian children's books [in the world]" to present children's literature enthusiasts with a variety of works from Down Under. O'Conor's focus is "not based purely on [the] literary or artistic merit" of the books - as she herself points out in her introduction. Her intention is rather to juxtapose popular works and lesser-known illustrations and thus draw attention to the great diversity of material available to Australian children and situate it within a wider [mostly Anglo-European] context. Divided into five broad thematic chapters entitled "Schooldays," "Morality and the Family," "Home and Land," "Journeys," and "Other Worlds," the book explores the general development of various genres, popular themes, and common motifs (alphabet books, fantasy, environmental conservation, imaginary journeys, fairies, anthropomorphic characters, etc.). In addition, it provides spotlights on selected authors and illustrators (Sheila Hawkins, David Henry Souter, May Gibbs), iconic works ("Blinky Bill" or "Seven Little Australians") and interesting literary forms ("cultural fantasy," "toy fantasies," "children's annuals," "the fox fable"). Even though it is by no means a comprehensive history of illustrated Australian books and also [intentionally?] omits a few important artists, the wealth of images included and the perspicuous text make this a valuable introduction into this nation's literary and artistic heritage that clearly invites further research. [End Page 70]



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