Sunday, December 10, 2017

Connections to the sea…

Abel Tasman: Mapping the Southern Lands by Maria Gill, illus. Marco Ivančić, Scholastic NZ

On 5 November 2017 Maria launched two picture books at the Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby – Toroa’s Journey, and this one about Abel Tasman. The books are a long way apart in subject matter, but one element is common to both – the sea. This stately picture book impresses all the way through, from the cover realistically portraying an intrepid explorer scanning the horizon, to the inside front cover which show maps of the chartered world circa 1600, and to the inside back cover which shows the world circa 1670 (after Abel Tasman’s voyages in the 1640s).

Maria uses straight-forward language to describe Abel Tasman’s childhood ambitions, but moves quickly on to the departure from Batavia of the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen in August 1642. The ships made landfall on what would eventually become Tasmania. The Aboriginals watched these pale people with suspicion but no confrontation occurred. Abel Tasman’s next landfall was on the coast of New Zealand, and here a terrible battle with the Maori resulted in casualties on both sides. The book finishes with several pages of easy-to-read factual information and diagrams about mapping, the voyage routes, the explorers, the countries visited, and the ships.

Marco’s luminous, lifelike illustrations of Abel Tasman, his ships, and the inhabitants of Australia and New Zealand are breath-taking, and the design of the book is excellent.

This is not a picture book for pre-schoolers or very junior classes, but children of around seven to eleven with some awareness of the world around them will pore over it – to soak up the information and absorb the illustrations. Recommended for all public libraries, also primary and intermediate school libraries.

ISBN 978 1 77543 509 9 RRP $27.95 Hb  

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman   

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