Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Waiting for Papa — book review of "Lizzie Nonsense"

While my husband is adventuring in Papua New Guinea, it seems apropos to talk about one of my absolutely most favourite picture books - Lizzie Nonsense by Jan Ormerod.

This is a lovely gem of a picture book about a family who live in the Bush in Federation-era Australia, told from the perspective of the oldest of the two children, Lizzie. It focuses on what life is like for Mama, Lizzie and Baby as they wait for Papa to return from selling sandalwood in town (50 miles along sand tracks).

My own recent experience of waiting for Papa to come home has been rather eye-opening. Eight days is a considerable time when the longest period you've been separated from each other previously is three nights. (Yes, I'm aware of how ridiculously blessed that makes me. My cousin whose husband is in the Navy was telling me on Skype that she'll be facing separations of up to 6 months.)

Lizzie's experiences in the book may not include the following:

  • Being upset that Papa was not reachable on mobile phone for most of the trip.
  • Finding out just how far sprinkles go disperse throughout the house after a nutritious afternoon snack of fairy bread (Americans can google that one).
  • Confronting a sudden lack of motivation to do laundry.
  • Discovering EXACTLY how much tidying up Papa does every day without mentioning it.

And now back to the book....

This is one of the few children's books I've discovered at the library which I felt I actually wanted to own. So many picture books are badly drawn, or stylish but "thin". Sometimes the illustrations are very attractive, but don't interact with the text in a meaningful way.

In contrast, Ormerod's watercolour illustrations are just lovely (but not "pretty") and her simple text rewards repeat reading. Lizzie is inventive, fanciful, and capable. Mama is brave and sweet, and there's an undertone of poignance for the adult reader who senses how much she may have given up to live this life. I also love the obvious conjugal felicity of the husband and wife, which balances the awareness of hardships.

While brief, it conveys a wonderful sense of place and family. It's not surprising that Ormerod seems to have based it on the life of her own grandmother.

My daughter Eve absolutely loved this book as a 2-year-old and chose to dress up as Lizzie for my 30th birthday party, though I imagine the book is probably aimed at children around age 4-6.

1 comment:

  1. I remember Lizzie Nonsense! I read it to Eve just about exactly a year ago and really loved it--it is just a beautiful family story!