One of my favourite Australian authors is Sonya Hartnett. Her books are often set in times and places that are so endearingly familiar that I almost feel she’s writing to me (yes, she’s that good!). She’s also an incredibly versatile author and as well as writing for adults, has penned award-winning books for children and young adults. I had just finished reading her recently released novel, Golden Boys, when her latest picture book came my way. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
The story is about Charlie, a little boy who meets the ‘wild one’ unexpectedly while playing outside. Charlie and the wild one spend glorious hours catching tadpoles, rolling in autumn leaves, playing with sticks and splashing in puddles. Although Charlie wishes that his time outside was never-ending, the wild one reminds him that he has to go to school. And as you turn each page, another stage in Charlie’s life is revealed – student, doctor, father and grandfather. Charlie’s connection with nature ebbs and flows but the wild one is never quite forgotten.
The Wild One is the third picture book that Hartnett and Masciullo have collaborated on (previous titles are The Boy and the Toy and Come Down, Cat!) and is illustrated in a very different style from Masciullo’s previous books. Masciullo uses soft, watercolour paintings in muted greens, blues and browns to give a dream-like feel to the page – perfect for depicting an imaginary character and the sentimentality of Hartnett’s words. Small details delight – the biological names of tree and bird species feintly incorporated into the pictures; a repeated theme of falling autumn leaves; and Charlie’s smile, instantly recognisable despite aging sixty years over the course of the story.
The Wild One is suitable for children age three years and over – older children will appreciate the deeper messages. Find it in all good book stores or online at Fishpond.