Young children and their adults will love Elizabeth Honey’s latest offering, truly ‘an absolutely Australian counting book’, as its by-line proclaims. With eye-catching illustrations – created by applying acrylic paint to plastic stencils – and read-aloud rollicky text, the book is immediately engaging. The endearing characters, ranging from blue wrens to potoroos to kelpies, are captivating and simple, every page providing something distinct and accessible to capture the child’s focus, and more detail to discover on subsequent visits. Some pages, for example, have hidden characters to find, such as the cats in the terrace houses and the lizards amongst the gum leaves.
Ten Blue Wrens combines the familiar with the inventive, making it both entertaining and educational, with plenty of opportunity for discussion between adult and child. Each page is a colour-burst, with one or two lines of text, in rhyme and meter that easily rolls off the tongue. The book engages all the senses: the splash of water at the beach; the crowd roaring as a goal is scored at an Aussie rules match; three relaxed Indigenous artists absorbed in their dot painting, sitting on the red dirt, three dogs sprawled in various states of repose around them; meat pies with ‘tomato saucey’ smiles; bottles of wattle; potoroos digging in the moonlight; and a starburst of fireworks over Sydney harbour Bridge – to name a few.
This delightfully Australian picture book, fresh, fun-filled and imaginative, will enthral a young child with its simplicity and charm – one to be pulled of the shelf time and again. Highly recommended.
Allen & Unwin 2011