Rockhopping (Trace Balla, A&U)
Clancy and his Uncle Egg, the heroes of Trace Balla’s Rivertime, are on a climbing adventure through Victoria’s Grampians. Their six-day trip is full of excitement, with some hairy situations creating genuine moments of alarm. As in life, plans change, and it’s when Clancy learns to go with the flow that he finds himself having a wonderful adventure. Created in the same style as Balla’s first book, Rockhopping is an appealing mix of graphic novel and picture book that is both entertaining and highly informative, although never preachy and didactic. The book’s design—cartoon-style pictures, dialogue rendered in captions and pages broken up into cartoon frames—is deceptively simple but full of dynamism and expression. The use of white space and dense, scribbly lines brilliantly conveys the scope of the great outdoors, and local flora and fauna abound (particularly on the book’s endpapers, where the birds, animals, insects and lichens seen on Clancy and Uncle Egg’s trip are all drawn and labelled). The sepia typeface (made from the author’s own handwriting) contributes to the book’s sense of intimacy, making the reader feel part of Clancy’s experience. Balla’s respect for this environment and its original people clearly pervades this fabulous book, which would make a memorable reading experience for readers aged seven to 12.
Louise Pfanner is an author, illustrator and bookseller