Review Blog

Jun 23 2016

Steve goes to carnival by Joshua Button

cover image

Ill. by Robyn Wells. Magabala Books, 2016. ISBN 9781925360219
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Gorillas, Zoos, Rio de Janeiro, Jazz, Friendship. An array of animals lives in the zoo in Rio de Janeiro. The jaguars pace in their den, the elephant stretches out his trunk for an ice cream, the howler moneys do what they are known for, the sloths sway gently, the anteater eats its dinner and the lion licks his lips. But the gorilla called Steve simply waits for the keeper, Antonio to appear. They are the best of friends, and share a love of jazz. Antonio often sits with Steve in the evening listening to the radio. One night Steve misses Antonio and lifts the latch of his cage to search for him. Outside the zoo he finds a wide-brimmed hat, the perfect disguise. He catches the yellow tram into the city and sees and hears the sights and sounds of Carnival. Hearing some familiar music he enters the Blue Jaguar Jazz Club and spies Antonio playing his saxophone. They greet each other fondly and Steve takes the hand of a dancer and sways to the music. But his hat falls from his head revealing who he is. Without missing a beat the beautiful dancer picks up his hat and places it on his head and they resume dancing, twisting and turning into the night.
What a wonderful story, rich in meaning, giving information about Rio through the writing in a splendidly subtle way, and reflecting a contemporary illustrative technique which grabs the attention of the readers.
Younger readers will thrill to the images of Carnival in Rio, reflecting on the city that is shortly to host the Olympic Games. Portuguese words dot the text and pictures, introducing the reader to the words they may well hear during the Games. Some of these words appear in a short glossary at the end, and readers will have a great deal of fun after reading this story finding other words and working out their meanings, particularly those reflecting Brazil's food and festivities.
This is an enchanting story, impressive in its detail of life in Rio, allowing readers to assimilate information about Rio and its lifestyle without feeling they are reading a text. The background of head dresses, trams, favelas, people and buildings all form part of the vividly drawn streetscapes for readers to linger over. The vibrant pictures will easily grab their imaginations as the illustrations stretch and sway, move and meander across the pages.
Joshua Button is a descendant of the Walmajari people of the Kimberley, and lives in Broome. His first picture book, Joshua and the two crabs was released with acclaim in 2008, and he worked with Robyn Wells on this book starting at her kitchen table in 2006. And I hope he has more work in progress.
Fran Knight

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