Shearing Time (Allison Paterson, illus by Shane McGrath, Big Sky Publishing)
Though shearing is engrained in Australian mythology, chances are that most children aren’t familiar with the practice of removing a woolly coat from its owner. Allison Paterson’s book tries, with success, to rectify this. It begins with a young girl and her sheepdog eagerly waiting for shearing time, the ‘best time of the year’. Both canine and motorbike are used for the tricky business of mustering the animals in preparation for the shearers. The girl helps out as best as she can, sweeping away leftover bits of fluff, stomping on the fleece to push them into bales and cooking drop scones to feed the workers. Shane McGrath’s no-nonsense, realistic illustrations are matched with the pragmatic prose. We see the shearers stretching their aching backs between the beasts and the sheep dung that drops to the ground beneath the greasy wooden grating. Shearing Time shows how it’s a collaborative effort, with the author offering a personal perspective on what life is like on a family-run farm (the book is based on her childhood memories). There’s an additional resource on the flyleaf so early primary school readers can learn about curious words and sayings related to this world. I particularly like ‘Ducks on the Pond’ (the shearers would shout this out when a girl arrived so no-one would swear).
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue