Ernie’s Journey (David Woodland, Berbay)
David Woodland’s debut picture book Ernie’s Journey is unmistakably influenced by his award-winning cinematic background. Its visual detail and narrative novelty are rich, and the absurd adventures of its eponymous character (a turtle, by the way) are as audacious and playful as any stories its audience of young children might produce. The imagery, a kind of softened nature-based steampunk fantasy, carries the reader through dreamlike scenes—filled with occyphants, bacon avocados and the ‘slippery, creepy, hairy, scary snaider’—in which Ernie is the hero of his various exploits. At his uncle Ernie’s knee, Eli hangs on every word and inherits the spirit of adventure and inventiveness Ernie embodies; his enthusiasm is rewarded when Ernie gifts him the compass passed down through generations of the voyaging family. The collection of wildly odd encounters with imagined creatures in imagined landscapes is reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling mingled with Jim Henson, and while the book will engage the readers aged around four and up, it may be a little wordy for younger audiences. Ernie’s Journey jumps from adventure to adventure without quite adhering itself to any narrative arc (though of course, this exactly fulfils Eli’s appetite for exploration), however its distinctive and charismatic style, both earnest and playful, makes its worlds delightful to visit.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop for over 10 years.