Wednesday, 4 March 2015

ALPHABETICAL SYDNEY BY ANTONIA PESENTI + HILARY BELL






The year that I bought this book the woman at the store said several had been sold that day. It was nearing Christmas and Alphabetical Sydney was becoming a popular choice in children's books. That was in Sydney, but as the data came through, it became apparent that all of Australia was enamoured with this local tale. 

The reason is two-fold. The illustrations are by Antonia Pesenti, a woman who I have interviewed several times over the years. Most recently for a Creative Journeys series I've been writing for Temple & Webster. Her work has been featured regularly in the pages of magazines such as Gourmet Traveller and Real Living, as well as a host of other publications. Hilary Bell is a playwright who has managed to wrap her words around Sydney, rhyming seemingly disparate objects into a fun journey through Australia's biggest city.

The appeal of the book is that it really does cover Sydney. Suburbs that rarely get a mention in metropolitan newspapers and media outlets that are supposed to cover the whole city, are featured here. Let's talk about L is for lawn bowls. The accompanying illustration is of Engadine Bowling Club. I lived in that suburb for part of my childhood and hardly anyone I meet knows where it is. Yet, it got a feature in the book. Brilliant.

While many of the big attractions get ticked off - the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park - it is everyday familiar scenes that excite the children. Seeing a bus going to Circular Quay. Bats flying towards Centennial Park. And a packet of Jatz crackers on the top shelf of the Delicatessen.

The six-year-old enjoyed reading it more about a year or so ago - now he is interested in books about space. However, the three-year-old enjoys learning her alphabet letters and seeing so many familiar scenes. Even the 19-month-old spotted the Harbour Bridge and the kookaburra.

The follow-up to the book, Numerical Street, will be launched at Koskela in Sydney later in the year.

images the indigo crew

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