Molly and Mae by Danny Parker
Ill. by Freya Blackwood. Hardie Grant Egmont, 2016. ISBN
A railway station in rural Anywhere, Australia and Molly and Mae are looking forward to their journey to the city. On the platform there is fun to be had like hide and seek to play as they and the other passengers wait for the train to arrive and their friendship is full of laughter and giggles as the excitement builds. Even being stuck in the bubblegum doesn't dampen their delight. And even as the waiting goes on and on, there is fun to be had as they enjoy each other's company. When at last the train comes the fun continues as they colour in, dress up their dolls, experience the dining car, and even do crazy stuff like hanging upside down from the seats!
But slowly as the trip seems interminable cracks start to appear as boredom sets in. Molly thinks Mae is silly and tells her so and Mae doesn't like it and before long the girls are not speaking to each other, turning away and spending their time peering through the window at the wet, smeary countryside. The whole world looks murky, echoing their feelings. Will they resolve their spat or is this the end of something special?
This is a story about so much more than a long train journey as it mirrors real-life friendships - the excitement of new shared interests, the pleasure in just being together and doing everyday stuff and the anticipation of adventures to come. But there are also times when it is boring, when difficulties happen and there is a choice of building bridges and continuing on the main track or branching off onto another one.
This is a true marriage of text and graphics. Blackwood's soft palette and somewhat retro feel and clever headings of platform, timetable, journey, signal failure, destination that replicate both the stages of the journey and the development of the friendship express Parker's concept and text perfectly and the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into the story from the early morning endpaper through the title page to the explosion of the big city station and as night falls over the city. Blackwood has explained her thought processes and choices here showing just how much goes into such a project.
If teachers were ever looking for a book to explain metaphor, this is it!
Would not be surprised to see this among the CBCA shortlisted titles in 2017.