My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s (Robin Feiner, illus by Beck Feiner, ABC Books)
From the first glance of this picture book, those of us (particularly Generation Xers) who grew up in the 80s know we’re in for a treat. There, on the cover, are legwarmers, a scrunchie, a bum bag, a keyboard, even a floppy disk! The narrative is simple: a boy discovers a box of retro stuff, prompting the next few pages to flip back several decades. ‘I’ve heard it was a really bizarre time!’ he says, glancing in amusement at the Polaroid camera, rollerskates and VHS tapes belonging to his parents. It may seem outlandish to kids today but as this book reminds them, in the 80s there were such things as cassette tapes to play music (and a pencil was required to wind back the rogue unspooling tape). My Folks Grew Up in the ’80s is a nostalgic trip for those who lived through this period as teenagers and who can still remember the cultural artefacts that surrounded us way back then. Beck Feiner’s illustrations are appropriately bright, fluoro and garish, as apposite of the time, and she has a lot of fun depicting breakdancing, aerobics and even going to the video store. It’s the details in the book that make it so attractive—if you look closely there are all kinds of 80s references—so, although ostensibly for primary school children, this book is equally joyful for adults.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer, and the books editor of the Big Issue