Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Children’s Book Review, This is Banjo Paterson

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

This is Banjo Paterson is a children’s picture book written by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Christina Booth and published by National Library of Australia. RRP:$Au24.99

From the publisher:

Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson loved to write poetry. He loved hunting and fishing and horses, too, especially a horse named Banjo. In this charming picture book, little ones can celebrate the life of a great poet, journalist, bushman and world traveller.

Join Banjo, his family, dog and neighbourhood friends, as they recount the life of Banjo Paterson with an afternoon of backyard playtime that truly typifies childhood.

At the back of the book, read extracts from some of Banjo's famous poems and look at some historical photographs from the National Library of Australia's collection.

McCartney and Booth have used a similar construct to their book, This is Captain Cook, in which school children acted out a play about Cook while the reader found out about him. This time, we see kids dressing up and playing Paterson’s story in an urban backyard. For instance, when we read about Paterson’s favourite horse, Banjo, we see a youngster galloping around a Hill’s Hoist on his hobby horse. I like this idea very much. It means the book is enormously child-friendly with lots of fun and warmth, but there’s still learning going on. The inclusion of excerpts from Paterson's poems is great, and I hope children and teachers will be inspired to go on and read more Australian bush poetry.

McCartney has a real knack for choosing salient facts that are going to interest kids, and for using words and constructions that make the reading effortless. Booth adds so much colour and fun - I love the fact that there are often wry comments in cartoon-style bubbles and kids will too. For instance, we read about the beginning of Paterson’s abiding love of poetry while his speech bubble says, “Books are cool. So is school. Horses, rhyme and poems rule!” Children will discover Banjo Paterson to be an accessible Australian hero, one after their own hearts.

I’ll be adding This is Banjo Paterson to my List of Picture Books and Educational Activities about Australia.

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