There are many things to love about this book by Meg McKinlay and artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers (Fremantle Press). It tells the story of a couple of kids who are forced to walk to school when the “shiny machine” that usually gets them there in comfort breaks down. It’s a book about being in the world enough to notice things – and how it might be harder at first, but in time the rewards are limitless.
1. How the characters of Mum, Tessa and Zachary are drawn -all spindly limbs, almond eyes looking out from under straight black fringes. These three manage to look totally unlike anything you usually see in a picture book and yet be totally relatable.
2. How it captures the seductive comfort of travelling by air conditioned car. “.. they sat back and said AHHHHHHH!”
3. The oh-so-recognisable reaction of Tessa and Zachary to the challenge of walking for the first time. “This is terrible,” said Tessa. “ I can’t make it!” said Zachary.
4. The dream-like atmosphere of the whole book, the images and McKinlay’s writing. She chooses not to specify the tiny things they discover on their walk: “This one was small and blue and secret.”
5. The striking non-standard colour palette: shades of teal and aqua, greiges, grass green on dark stained wood panels. Kids can enjoy all the shades.
6. The look of deep contentment on the children’s faces when they start to enjoy walking. And that, as they walk, “Their legs hummed a walking tune”.
7. The way the outside world is painted as a total blur, when viewed from the moving car.
8. How the book wraps practical things in poetry and finds the poetic in the practical: “If it was hot, they walked in the shade. If it was cold, they put on a jumper. If it was just right, they smiled and said AHHHHHHH!”
9. The simplicity of the final spread: “It was the world and they were in it.”
10. That it reminds us why we (mostly) walk to school.
I’m definitely planning to seek out more of McKinlay’s work – she was also just awarded the WA Premier’s Award for her book for older children Catch a Falling Star. For more Kyle Hughes-Odgers, look out for his books (including the even dreamier One Thousand Trees) and his large scale public artworks from Perth Airport to Mt Hawthorn to the vast silo mural in Merredin.