Review Blog

Oct 11 2018

The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: 100th Anniversary Edition by May Gibbs

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HarperCollins, 2018. ISBN 9781460756218
A century ago, as the war that had shaken the world and shattered so many families was finally drawing to a close, an Australian artist who specialised in satirical cartoons and social commentary gave the world her now-iconic work about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, the two little gumnut brothers who set off on an adventure to see a human.
May Gibbs had completely changed her focus from her earlier work and because of ill-health moved to Sydney where she fell in love with the natural bushland of the Blue Mountains. In 1914 the Gumnut Babies made their first appearance and quickly became popular with Australians at home and in the trenches as her range of works were included in Red Cross parcels, bringing sentimental reminders of home to the troops.
Now a committed conservationist, Gibbs brought the world of the Australian bush alive for those who were far from it as she tells the tale of how Cuddlepie is rescued by Nut from the spiderweb and taken home to meet Snugglepot and they became foster brothers and lived together side by side until they became "strong and fat as you see them in the pictures." Enthralled by the stories of Mr Kookaburra about humans and their ways, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie determine that these strange creatures are something they want to see and so one very hot night, "when the Cicadas were singing so loudly that Snugglepot couldn't hear his father's snoring, he and Cuddlepie crept out of bed and out of the house." Decking themselves in in feathers from an old nest to look like birds and fly, by sunrise they were far from home. And so the adventures began . . .
And a century later, little ones are still captivated by the stories and the characters who helped them on their way like Mr Lizard, Mrs Fantail, Little Ragged blossom, Little Obelia, the evil Mrs Snake and, of course, the big bad Banksia Men.
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie has never been out of print since it was first published and this new centenary edition is an heirloom to be treasured, and certainly the perfect gift for any baby born this year. All of her original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned and it features a fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these stories.
Included is a biography of May Gibbs that reveals her remarkable life and talent and how deserving she is to be regarded as one of Australia's most treasured illustrators, artists and children's authors.
In her will, May Gibbs left the copyright of her works jointly to The NSW Society for Crippled Children (now known as Northcott) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance) with payments for the rights to use her designs going to these charities and so her legacy continues in a practical way. Nutcote, her harbourside home in Neutral Bay, Sydney is now a house museum that can be visited by the general public. There is also a travelling exhibition celebrating her life and work with a selection of original and reproduction artwork from her children's books and other works from the State Library of NSW that is currently on tour.
As teacher librarians we talk about finding THAT book for each child that will transform them into a lifelong reader - THAT book for me was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie shared with me as a little one recovering from the mumps by a loving grandmother. Over 60 years on and the magic has not faded! Who would ever have imagined I'd be reviewing the centenary edition!!! #fanforlife
Barbara Braxton

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