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Mechanica: A Beginner’s Field Guide (Lance Balchin, The Five Mile Press)

Mechanica: A Beginner’s Field Guide is a beautiful picture book for older children that combines steampunk style with a futuristic, cautionary tale. Author and illustrator Lance Balchin has created a visual encyclopaedia of Mechanica, human-created life forms designed to replace those lost as a result of climate change in the 22nd century. While Mechanica were created for the amusement of humans, they soon escaped confinement and began evolving in the wild. The picture book opens with a history of the creation and evolution of Mechanica, and introduces the key characters in their design and creation. One of these characters is 15-year-old Liberty Crisp, collator of the resource Mechanica: A Beginner’s Field Guide. The rest of the book is styled as Liberty’s collection, displaying history, facts and illustrations of the creatures encountered by Crisp. The steampunk-style illustrations are intricate and the entry for each creature builds the narrative well. The book could have been longer to truly develop the world and story for readers at this level, but the story still holds up. Readers aged eight and up will enjoy Mechanica, and adult fans of Graeme Base and Brian Froud will find another favourite in this book.

Amy Nicholls-Diver is a primary literacy editor from Melbourne


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