The Silver Sea (Alison Lester, Jane Godwin and the children at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Affirm Press)
Since Alison Lester and Jane Godwin are practically Australian-children’s-literature royalty, it was hard to keep my expectations reasonable for The Silver Sea. Luckily, the book fulfils its potential. Visually sumptuous, it’s an impressively cohesive collaboration with a group of children at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital, and the pleasing, accessible narrative stands alone without leaning on its social value (all profits will go to the hospital). The Silver Sea is a beautiful, dreamy adventure ‘down through the blue’ and home again by dawn. Each double-page spread pairs a clean yet poetic quatrain with a rich collage of ocean-dwellers, provided by the young patients. The story strikes the right note of safe excitement for the pre-school to early primary age group, with the blend of descriptive and concrete language well balanced by the diversity of images. While the seascapes are busy (curating and augmenting the children’s work must have been daunting), the two sketched figures who appear on each page provide a point of contrast and connection. Uncoloured and unnamed, they have a universal appeal (they could be mother and child, siblings or friends) and contrast well with the bountiful visual and verbal imagery. The Silver Sea will serve equally well as an oft-read bedtime story or classroom text. It’s a rare example of community collaboration with master artists genuinely succeeding.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor and writer, and a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop