Review: Evie Is All Ears
Easter is different things to different people: a time of rest and relaxation with family, a moment to reflect on new beginnings, a sacred religious observation symbolising rebirth and renewed hope. Here in Australia a new tradition is taking hold; the Easter Bilby has been bouncing alongside the traditional Easter Bunny as a symbol of encompassing change and compassion in addition to recognition for our very own long-eared lookalike Easter cutie for some time now.
While picture book, Evie Is All Ears is devoid of Easter Eggs, it does feature bilbies in abundance and is a tender example of consideration and coping with change; two significant Easter concepts. With that tenuous connection made, let’s explore Evie’s world.
Evie lives in the harsh Australian brigalow bush. She attends Miss Briar’s school with gay abandon and applies herself to every bilby task required be it learning to dig with her sharp claws or sniff out tasty morsels using her keen nose. The one thing she finds difficult is hearing. Words and sounds are muffled and obscured beyond recognition causing her to second guess everything and withdrawal from group activities. She tries to adjust her lovely long ears in hope of improvement but nothing works. Her deficiency comes to a dramatic climax after Evie fails to hear the approach of an arch enemy, the fox.
Fortunately, Evie’s mum enlists the help of a hearing specialist and after a period of testing, Evie is fitted out with a set of smart hearing aids that match her pretty headband I might add. The hearing aids work like magic, magnifying every minute sound even Evie’s own quick breaths making everything different and daunting. All efforts to ditch her aids end in failure. Evie would rather live in an incoherent world than suffer the humiliation of being different from her school mates. Her mother persuades her otherwise and when Evie finally arrives at school, she encounters a welcome surprise.
Evie is All Ears falls into a collection of picture books that serve to illuminate and bolster inclusiveness. The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses by Susanne Gervay and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall shares similar themes of overcoming a physical disability whilst boosting self-esteem. It’s a reminder to young children that small differences don’t have to alienate rather they can be embraced and managed. Books like these are also a gentle reminder that poor classroom performance is not necessarily a result of inattentiveness and that we should all be aware of the root causes of a consequence before judging a negative behavioural pattern.
Kellie Byrnes’ narrative both informs and endears. References to bilby behaviour and habitat nestle snuggly alongside Evie’s distress, embarrassment and reluctance to admit and deal with her problem, emotions many youngsters can relate to in some way. The outcome is a big warm hug of kindness and acceptance.
This book has irresistible visual appeal, too. From the star speckled embossed cover to the dandelion seeds adrift from end page to end page, illustrator, Lesley McGee manages to capture the essence of the outback and infuse it with fun, furry detail keeping little eyes busy. Honey ants, echidnas, witchetty grubs and an assortment of other Aussie inspired flora and fauna feature on every page.
With this much on offer, Evie is All Ears is hard to pass up as a book that reinforces the best virtues of Easter. Share it soon.
Evie Is All Ears
Author: Kellie Byrnes
Illustrator: Lesley McGee
Publisher: Little Pink Dog Books, $24.95
Publication Date: 7 October 2020
For ages: 3 – 8
Type: Picture Book