Saturday, 23 November 2013

Alison Lester

I was honored to have had dinner with one (there are two) of the Australian Children's #Laureates, Alison Lester earlier this year and here's an article I wrote straight after we met.
Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor

Meeting #AlisonLester makes you feel as if you’ve just crawled out of a sarcophagus or that you’ve recovered from a coma. She oozes sunshine, fresh air and an absolute love of life lived to the full –the very stuff her books are made from and what makes them so appealing.  She manages to blend experience and the imagined seamlessly, creating words and pictures directly from the heart.

Are we there yet? 

Gifted to us in 2007, ‘Are we there yet?‘ is one of our all time favourites. We love it! It’s a book we’ve read, re-read, poured over and our youngest son has even slept with it on several occasions. Children like repetition and it’s important to be able to go back to a book and gain new perspective or inspiration from the characters.

What makes ‘Are we there yet?’ such a perfect book?

1 . Great text. This is such a well-written book. The writing is thought provoking, meaty and factual. Alison is, amongst so many other things, an educator. Facts are cleverly written into the narrative allowing you to feel nourished as a reader rather than ‘preached at.”

2. It’s believable. The book’s written like a travel log. It centres around a family and their Australian road trip. I actually thought it was totally autobiographical until I met Alison’s husband, who doesn’t have black bushy hair.

3. There’s a credible child’s voice narrating the story. (Take note publishers - there are children in this picture book!) The characters are distinctly Australian and the experience is Australian and not some hybrid which supposedly has universal appeal in order to boost sales. It’s important to the reader to be able to imagine what it could be like for a child growing up somewhere else and to be able to identify with real people.

3. It’s got soul! The #illustrations are hand executed and the layouts enhance the quality of the work. Sometimes the spirit of a book gets ‘killed’ by too much technological intervention. The designer obviously respected the creator’s work and the soul is perfectly intact. The colours are fresh, the work beautifully composed and the printing process has been very faithful to the originals.

5. It’ll fill you with wanderlust. We haven’t been to Australia and won’t be going any time soon but we somehow feel we’ve experienced it and I know for certain that everyone wants to go on holiday there simply because of reading the book (that and Orlando! – Harry Potter’s another culprit!) What better way for a #Laureate to promote their country than by writing a book that makes the reader want to visit? Maybe the travel and tourism sector might think about promoting it internationally simply for that reason?

I visit bookshops on a regular basis and have never seen Alison's work for sale on this side of the world, surprising, as there are no translation issues. I don’t shop on line and try as best to support local booksellers such as Charlie Byrne’s and Dubray books. I like to experience something in reality before purchasing. Therefore, regrettably, I haven’t managed to get my hands on more of Alison’s #books. Incidentally, they all sold like hot cakes at the ‘Laureates in conversation’ event before I even had a chance to glance at them.  There’s an appetite for them here, it’s just a case of getting them into our shops.  Lucky for us, Alison gifted our children with a few she had left over and we’re now glued to ‘The Quicksand pony’ and thoroughly enjoyed the board book ‘Noni the pony.’ I’ll have to break with my own tradition and buy what I can of hers on line.

I’ve already written way more than intended. Really I just wanted to say how inspired I’ve been by Alison’s book over the years and that I’ve visited her website so many times to track the phenomenal work she’s doing with children. Over any other living #author/illustrator, I can say that Alison’s work and life continues to be the most influential and inspiring.

Are we there yet?
Such a great metaphor for life!

Are we there yet?
Not by a long shot, but we’re aiming to get there and trying to enjoy the journey in our pursuit to do so.

And there's more...

This website's well worth a visit, I've been there many times and always find it to be a great source of inspiration.

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