Christmas Countdown: Days 14, 15 - The Biscuit Maker & How To Make A Bird

These two beautiful picture books by Australian creators will enhance your child’s bookshelf this Christmas and also their sense of collective humanity. Wise and wonderful they are the ingredients for soaring hearts.

The Biscuit Maker

Despite Liz Anelli’s eye-feasting illustrations, brimming with detail and wit or maybe because of the gorgeous jumble, we don’t immediately realise who Audrey Mae is however we soon discover she and Benedict Stanley are great gardeners and live at 23 Mavin Road. Each morning they greet the world about them with joyful expectation. Sadly, their salutations are never returned.

Benedict and Audrey, whom young eyes will by now have identified as Benedict’s faithful companion and fellow watcher, observe the countless comings and goings on Mavin Road every day from the refuge of their bright and cheerful sanctuary. The world bustles by, grim and endlessly busy, punctuated by unique ordinariness that only Benedict and Audrey have the time to notice; and young Rory their gap-toothed neighbour. One day, under the supervisory eye of Audrey, Benedict begins to bake biscuits, surreptitiously delivering each special personalised batch to his neighbours. No event goes unacknowledged and soon football cookies, rescued-cat cookies, Halloween cookies and new baby cookies grace the front door steps of Marvin Road. It is only when the special deliveries cease without warning, that the residents begin to ponder the identity of the biscuit maker and what has become of them.

Lawson’s narrative is accomplished and confident, melting seamlessly into the marvellous backdrop of Mavin Road created by Anelli. At first human interaction is restrained, smiles restricted like the patchwork of colour that is Benedict’s terrace garden but with the help of Audrey and Rory, the Mavin Road community spirit grows, brightening the hearts of all who live there.

The Biscuit Maker is a story of societal awareness and evoking change through the power of positive action and caring. When a whole community cares enough about its individuals, great change is possible. Children bear witness to several faces of humanity in this story: loneliness, fear and kindness in the most compassionate and enticing way – through the preparation and sharing of food! Benedict and Audrey even include their basic biscuit recipe, sure to prolong the enjoyment of this book even more. Not only is this story sweet to share with loved ones at home, its richly layered visual narrative and poignant prose makes it a compelling platform for classroom discussions, too. Delicious on every level.

Title:  The Biscuit Maker
Author:  Sue Lawson
Illustrator:  Liz Anelli
Publisher:  Walker Books Australia, $25.99
Publication Date:  September 2020
Format:  Hardcover  
: 9781760650438
For ages:  4 – 8
Type:  Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books, Boomerang Books

How To Make A Bird

It’s hard to imagine how the combined brilliance of two supreme storytellers can fail to impress and impress this book does. How To Make a Bird is a breathtaking experience that directly addresses young readers on how to make something immense and magical out of barely nothing at all. Meg McKinlay uses plain yet poetic prose to instruct readers to quite simply … make a bird. Tiny bones that will float on air, feathers for warmth and flight, a sure and steady heart; these are the beginnings of a bird.

Children are cautioned to take their time, breathe deeply…the making of a bird is not a thing to be hurried. Such beautiful sentiments that carry abundant meaning; we are reminded to slow down and value the small things in life, enjoy their simplicity and remain focused. Patience is key; tenacity allows dreams to flourish and birds to fly. Creativity is a marvellous and magical thing; nurture it and develop it with thought and care. You will know when your creations are ready to share; let them go. It is what they are made for.

My favourite spread is of windows flung wide open, the vast blue sky stretching on forever and ‘your’ bird disappearing into the distance, free at last. The bird, this apotheosis of creation, is a hard thing to relinquish; you went to so much effort to make it in the first place but its release symbolises accomplishment, profound understanding and acceptance; indeed a moment when you might simultaneously feel the sadness of regret and the essence of happiness.

As with all great creations, How to Make a Bird is almost too complex to comprehend yet Ottley’s visually arresting illustrations work in perfect unison with a narrative that reads like a verse novel. Words grace images that are clean and uncluttered yet perfectly precise. I do not know anyone who does penumbral clouds as stunningly as Matt Ottley; I could stare at them all day, lost in their infinite beauty.

This book is the creators’ bird. It is simple magic. It is unexpected pleasure. It enchants and entrances as it guides us through the intriguing anatomy of birds and imagination. It is an ode to the natural world, of making and making do then moving on. It’s a transformative vision of life that every child and adult must experience.

Title:  How To Make A Bird
Author:  Meg McKinlay
Illustrator:  Matt Ottley
Publisher:  Walker Books Australia, $25.99
Publication Date:  October 2020
Format:  Hardcover
: 9781925381894
For ages:  3+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books



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