Review Blog

Aug 28 2014

Vanilla icecream by Bob Graham

cover image

Walker Books, 2014. ISBN 9781406350098.
(Age: 3-adult) Highly recommended. Picture book. Freedom. Sanctuary. Journeys. India. Australia. Amnesty International. The simple act of a sparrow pecking at crumbs on the table at a cafe, causes the dog to leap, and an icecream to fall from a grandparent's hand onto the child in her pusher. Edie has her first taste of icecream.
The sparrow has come from India, a place where food is not to be wasted, and being a young bold bird, follows the food on a truck to a ship, and within the cargo hold, the bird hitches a ride to Australia.
The freedom of the sparrow in doing this contrasts vividly with others around the world who do not get that choice, whose journeys are curtailed.
The sparrow finds a new life in Australia, and can now be found at the Botanic Cafe ready to peck at any crumbs that fall, inadvertently setting in motion a series of events which culminates in a simple new experience for Edie.
The bird's flight from India to Australia is beautifully presented, the illustrations carefully planned to showcase each country and contrast the lives led. In India, the sparrow is a truck-stop bird, one that stays around the roadside samosa stall, waiting for any opportunity. In Australia it eats the crumbs from the cafe tables.
Graham's perfect watercolour illustrations show the reader the differences and similarities of both countries, children playing, people serving food, the cafe and the samosa stall. India is presented in detail, the man cooking the samosa in his stall, his wife in the room next door making them, a chair and table outside for customers, with palm trees standing silently behind, the iron roof of the stall held down with bamboo, the scooter drawn vehicle parked nearby, the paintings on the front of the trucks; each detail reminds us of India. And in Australia, the black swans in the park, the Botanic Cafe, grandparents looking after their grandchildren, the Moreton bay fig tree, the eucalypts, show the readers aspects of Australia.
Endorsed by Amnesty International, because 'we should all enjoy life, freedom and safety', parents, readers and teachers all will be encouraged to view the wider picture presented in this story. Discussions around freedom, the right to choose, the right to be safe can be evoked using this story, and many classrooms will use it as the basis for cultural understandings as promoted in the Australian Curriculum.
Fran Knight

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