This is Banjo Paterson by Tania McCartney

cover image

Ill. by Christina Booth. NLA Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9780642278982
(Ages: 4-8) Highly recommended. Tania McCartney and Christina Booth's beautifully crafted picture book celebrates one of Australia's most iconic legends, Andrew 'Banjo' Paterson.
The descriptive narrative focuses on his rural upbringing and the people who influenced his life's journey. Young Barty as he was known enjoyed his bush childhood, helping on the farm, riding his horse Banjo to school, watching polo matches and horse shows. He enjoyed listening to Jerry the Rhymer's tales about his bush life. His grandma loved poetry as well and she shared her love of language and rhyme with her grandson, whilst he boarded at her Sydney home. His teenage years were filled with school, sports, and his creative writing as well. This picture book tells of these special people in his life and the influences and events that moulded his life and developed his journalism career. He also worked in the legal field, as a farmer, vet, jockey and most famously as a writer. Tania includes special moments, the inspiration for 'Waltzing Matilda', his marriage and his children. The story ends with the beginning stanzas of 'The man from Snowy River'.
What sets this book apart from other biographies written for younger children, are the beautiful watercolour illustrations by Christina Booth. Here is a duality of storyline pictured visually, each vignette shows today's children dressed in summer clothes acting out the scenes. There is backyard cricket, Barty with a bush hat riding his hobbyhorse and sharing picnics under the clothesline with family and friends. Speech bubbles add to the commentary, rhymes, statements and exclamations, as well as witty thoughts by his dog who just wants a walk or to play catch.
Sharing these with a class, with a young audience at kindergarten or preschool is a wonderful experience, opening up conversations about life, changes, growing up and people who are important in their lives. Even the scenes of leaving for war and the time when Paterson went missing in France during World War 1 are sensitively illustrated.
Tania McCartney has included a description of Banjo Paterson's life in a newspaper format - 'The Snowy River Times'. Photos, copies of original illustrations and the music to 'Waltzing Matilda' provide additional information. This factual material and additional poetry are a great beginning for research topics. Dressing up and acting the scenes, making a wooden and bark hut, singing along to 'Waltzing Matilda' and unpacking the text are all wonderful learning opportunities. This is Banjo Paterson is an exciting collaboration by McCartney and Booth, perfect for sharing at home and in an education environment.
Rhyllis Bignell