Katerina Cruickshanks (Daniel Gray-Barnett, Scribble)
Daniel Gray-Barnett’s playful second book as both author and illustrator tells a cautionary tale about exiling exuberance and individuality. Katerina Cruickshanks’ wild and inventive approach to the world becomes too much for their friends, who quickly regret the decision to vote Katerina out of the group for being ‘too much’. It seems unnecessary to even mention the fact that Katerina is a nonbinary character, since Gray-Barnett has so carefully included it as a simple fact of life with no bearing on the story, but at the same time it is worth noting; as nonbinary or trans characters in picture books are few and far between (especially for this younger age group of around four years upwards), this one is a welcome contribution to the field. The illustrations are suitably bright and excitable, somewhere between the styles of Tony Ross and Mark Beech, and there’s also an energy, movement and fast-paced fantastical journey reminiscent of Maurice Sendak and Dr Seuss. The verse narrative itself, too, has tones of Dr Seuss, though it doesn’t quite manage the latter’s indestructible scansion and rhyme schemes. Energetic kids will no doubt delight in Katerina’s unruly escapades, and will recognise that sometimes out-of-control vigour is a necessary element in the kaleidoscope of life—even if it is sometimes just a little bit overwhelming!
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, an editor and writer, is a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop.