If you’re getting bored with the ordinary old alphabet picture book format and you yearn for an alphabet book that really says something about its subject, allow me to direct you right to today’s offering – Armin Greder’s Australia to Z. This is one of those books that, on the surface, looks like a perfectly ordinary picture book, but on closer inspection, has the potential to blow the discussion about Australian identity right out of the water. I was lucky enough to receive a copy from Allen & Unwin for review – thanks!
Here’s the (sparse) blurb from Goodreads:
Juxtaposing words and images, the multi-award-winning author of The Island shines an uncompromising light on what it is to be Australian.
And here are Five Things I’ve Learned From…
Australia To Z by Armin Greder
- While “Footballs, Meat pies and Kangaroos” still seem to go together underneath the southern stars, Holden cars are clearly on their way out (of the country and this book)
2. No matter where we go or what opinion we ascribe to, we cannot escape the looming visage of Rupert.
3. The meaning of the word stubby is always dependent on context.
4. Australia only has two culinary achievements worth mentioning and they begin with L and V respectively.
5. Those of us who fear for the future of this once-great nation are not alone.
While many of the letter choices in this picture book for readers at upper Primary level and older are designed to initiate debate on current social trends, there are also plenty of images that are just plain hilarious. My particular favourite is the “I” page, which every DIYer will find familiar, while the “X” page is just plain bizarre – what is that man doing to that Turkey??
The line art is evocative and this, combined with colour-blocked backgrounds and pops of colour on key objects, makes for a sparse and focused examination of each page. The final double page spread, in which the words of the national anthem are combined with images of “the Australian way”, both mundane and adversarial, sums up the utter sense of discomfiture that many Australians experience regarding various social injustices that continue to plague us. Greder has run a very fine balancing act here, providing just the right depth of genuflection at the altar of the jovial, jocular, larrikin sense of Australian identity to compensate for the stark and confronting presentation of issues of racism, misplaced national pride and social injustice that, like it or not, also make up the character of modern Australia.
In the interests of the nation, I would suggest passing this book around at your next backyard barbeque and watch the conversations heat up.
Subversion, thy name is Greder! (And the shelf-denizens salute you!)
Until next time,