Review Blog

Jun 23 2017

Whatcha building? by Andrew Daddo

cover image

Ill. by Stephen Michael King. Harper Collins, 2017. ISBN 9780733334153
(Ages: 4-8) Recommended. Construction, recycled materials. Andrew Daddo and Stephen Michael King have created a multi-layered book about how our world is changing around us. When the old wooden milk bar is torn down and replaced with a shiny steel supermarket, Little Davey collects all the old timber. It isn't until the end that we find out that Davey has rebuilt the milk bar in his backyard. This is uniquely Australian storytelling; not only is the builder called Big Bruce, but the text is littered with Australian slang (g'day, mate, cubby, fella) and a little bit of Aussie word butchering ('are ya?'). It even uses the analogy 'Like Melbourne rain'. At its heart, this is a book about change (new materials vs. recycled, old buildings vs. new buildings) and is nostalgic for a slowly disappearing Aussie-ness. It shows the concrete and steel of the city beginning to encroach on the rustic, woody, natural environments and the houses with big backyards often associated with Australia. When reading this many adults will feel a sense of loss for that easy, laid back lifestyle characterised by a friendly 'g'day' from a stranger, children walking home from school alone and playing in the streets and a dog hanging out in the back of a ute. Nevertheless, there remains an optimistic tone that despite technological and modern advancement a certain spirit lives on in the children of today (a simple game of backyard cricket with the skyscrapers of the city in the background, Little Davey's enthusiasm for building a place to sit down and share a cuppa and a chat). It isn't shiny new buildings or even a rollercoaster or a skate park that Little Davey wants; it is the old milk bar on the corner that he thinks is special. There are many themes and ideas presented here that will initiate a variety of conversations and explorations, especially regarding how the world is changing, what is being lost and what we should try to hold on to.
Nicole Nelson

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