Gumnut babies by May Gibbs
Angus and Robertson, 2016. ISBN 9781460752555
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Classics, Australian children's literature, Environment. This beautifully presented compendium of May Gibbs' stories is a centenary edition of the first publication of the Gumnut Babies in 1916. Beloved all over Australia, many homes would still have older editions on a bookshelf and many more would have more recent editions, her books remaining in print over the years. Containing seven stories: Gumnut Babies, Gum-blossom babies, Flannel Flowers and other Bush Babies, Boronia Babies, Wattle Babies, Nuttybub and Nittersing, Chucklebud and Wunkydoo, the whole is lavishly illustrated with her wonderful drawings and paintings. The book is finished with a biography of May Gibbs containing a selection of photographs of May, her house and garden, along with more images of her work. This is a wonderful book to reintroduce children to these stories of Australia's environment, published at a time of great emphasis on our natural world, when Gibbs imagined the bush was full of little gumnut people, along with dastardly villains ready to ensnare them.
Her emphasis on our natural environment must have been a wonderful introduction for many children in the early part of the twentieth century, and her using a range of flowers, flannel, native fuchsia, boronia and gum blossom, along with animals such as koala, possum, kookaburra and so on would have enthralled a society with a closer knowledge of the bush. But all this changed when the Depression meant that her cartoon strips were no longer bought by the newspapers and replaced with those from the USA.
The biography at the end of the book is brief but most enlightening about her life and career, urging readers to look for more information. And it is amazing to read that a place like Nutcote was about to be demolished, but is thankfully there for all visitors wanting a look at where she developed her ideas.