Zoo ball by Aleesah Darlison
Ill. by Australian children. Wombat Books, 2016. ISBN 9781925139433
Ned loves his big, bright bouncing ball. So much so, that he takes it to the zoo and even though his parents warn him not to bounce it, he just can't help himself. Everywhere he goes he bounces it, right into the kangaroos starting a wonderful adventure for the animals as they get in on the game and send it from one to the other, from kangaroo to lion, to penguins to pelican, from tiger to toucan and tapir too. Even into Ellie Elephant's poo!! Ned, his mum, dad, Aunt Lucy and the zookeeper follow, trying to retrieve it but they are always one step behind and all the while the ball is continuing its journey giving animals and crowd alike fun and joy. Then Ned has an idea.
This is a joyful story that bounces along in rhyming text providing as much fun for the reader as it does for the zoo creatures. But the unique feature is its illustrations. Wombat Books invited children all over Australia to submit drawings to accompany the story to provide them with an introduction to the world of illustrating and the opportunity to be published professionally. Now, twenty aspiring illustrators have their work included and acknowledged in a story that will be very popular with young readers. Even the cover is by a young illustrator, Alyssa Teoh, who also has an illustration in the book.
However, as well as inspiring those who were successful to continue, this book will also inspire other young artists. Sadly, children are often only exposed to the 'perfect' artwork of adults and never believe their own is quite good enough. We have all heard the plaintive questions, 'Do you like mine, Miss?' and 'Is this good enough?' as they seek reassurance for their efforts so this is an excellent book to celebrate the beauty and worthiness of children's art. It should be on hand to show them what can be achieved even by children. That what they produce is valid, valued and valuable. One of the young artists said, 'I entered the Zoo Ball Challenge following Aleesah Darlison's visit to our primary school at the beginning of 2014,' she said. 'Aleesah was really passionate about her writing and I am really passionate about my drawing. I thought immediately that this was the challenge for me.'
Aleesah's passion for writing comes through every story she writes and to be able to inspire our students to read, write and draw as she does, is a special gift to be treasured. You can read more about how the project evolved in an interview with Aleesah on Kids' Book Review. I hope this book is really successful so that Wombat Books are inspired to host a similar challenge in future.