Ollie and Augustus (Gabriel Evans, Walker)
When Ollie (‘small—like a pickling jar or a shoe box’) starts school, he worries that his beloved pet Augustus (‘large—like a fridge or a table’; a vast creature of indeterminate breed) will be lonely, so he attempts to find him a companion. But none of the other dogs understand Augustus’ quirks or the slightly unexpected activities with which Ollie and Augustus have populated their full, imaginative, independent lives (cycling, tree climbing, earnest ‘appreciation of sticks’). But, in a simple conclusion that will reassure children without being overtly didactic, it turns out that Augustus is just fine spending time alone, while his love and loyalty for Ollie remain steadfast. It’s an utterly lovely story with hints of humour that prevent sentimentalism. Gabriel Evans’ illustrations are so pleasing—recalling, in the best way, illustrators such as Emily Gravett and Peter H Reynolds. The restrained sepia palette is given depth with highlights of reds and blues, and the movement-filled pencil linework is balanced by the calm watercolours and confident use of white space. The style is more assured in its minimalism than Evans’ earlier illustrations for other authors’ texts, while still retaining the energetic personality and quirks of expression that bring so much detail and character (especially in Ollie’s face) to his work. Ollie and Augustus is highly recommended for those aged two and up.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor and writer, and a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop