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Oliver, Jo: The Light.

** OLIVER, Jo The Light New Frontier, 2013 unpaged $24.95 ISBN 9781921928413 SCIS 1589232


The lighthouse on Montague Island off the South coast of New South Wales provides the absorbing setting for this wonderful picturebook. The bleak landscape suggests an uninviting location and the isolation of the lighthouse keeper's family is emphasized by the framing of the illustrations within the page. However, there is a pervading sense of a joyful rhythm to the family's life as they go about their daily chores of cleaning, chopping wood or attending classes. The simplicity of their lifestyle is complemented by the ancient rhythm of nature as the sunlight comes and goes and the island's wildlife follows the daily patterns of a natural existence. The rhythm of music also permeates the island as the family gathers to sing and play instruments and a music score sheet cleverly forms the background for a number of the illustrations. As the close-knit family gathers inside around the piano, a storm rages outside and the lamp that lights their dwelling, like the lighthouse itself, is a beacon of safety and hope in a harsh environment. When shipwrecked sailors follow their light and are drawn by the music there is a pervading sense of shared humanity and hope restored.

Oliver's sketch drawings of charcoal and delicate pastels capture the mood of the island and the environment. Throughout the book the changing of the dominant colour of the pages from light to dark and back to light reflects the progress of the story while the economical text complements the simple but evocative illustrations. The endpapers are the architectural plans of the Montague Island light dating from the 1800's giving the text an historical context further enhanced by the period clothing. A first person narrator further helps to draw the reader into the past and, while the text evokes a sense of nostalgia, it also speaks to the modern reader of the need for family and of caring for each other. With its positive themes and skilful design, it is a subtle and beautifully crafted picturebook suitable for primary readers. JN

** Book by an Australian author or illustrator

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Author:Nolan, John
Publication:Reading Time
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 1, 2013
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