Jelly-Boy (Nicole Godwin, illus by Christopher Nielsen, Walker Books)
In this deceptively simple story, a jellyfish falls in love with a plastic bag, having assumed that it’s a fellow jellyfish. The book’s aim is to teach children about the dangers of plastic pollution to sea creatures, but the story of the relationship between jelly and bag is actually quite a complex one, touching on ideas of difference, tolerance, patience, family, danger and love. The narrative doesn’t explicitly discuss pollution but there’s an accessible page of facts at the end, and the illustrations subtly portray the damage done, particularly in two spreads where sea creatures around the protagonist are all entangled in rubbish. While the ideas are confronting, the illustrations are still gentle and playful, the motion of the water always carrying the little jellyfish along. In bright, beautifully vintage-scruffy print-style images, the journey of the jellyfish and its plastic love is quite charming (if abrupt in conclusion). The pictures, like the text, are not as simple as they might at first seem: textures and detail will keep young eyes engaged even if the narrative ideas go over their heads. Jelly-Boy will make an excellent teaching resource, useful for starting discussions with early primary school-aged children about recycling and caring for the environment.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor, writer and bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop