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2020 - Winner
Ella and the Ocean is a flawlessly composed and executed picture book. It is perfect for young children and will continue to delight on multiple readings thanks to its sophisticated, multilayered and allusive text. While at the simplest level this is a story about a child and her desire to see the ocean, the book has extraordinary depth, exploring drought, climate change, family, resilience, dreams and hope. The Australian landscape is celebrated and the natural world affirmed.
The writing is simple, yet metaphorical, sensory and evocative with evocative repetition of descriptions of the dry-as-bone land, the revitalising ocean and broken and anticipated dreams. The cyclic narrative arc is consummately crafted. Words and illustrations align effortlessly and the artwork shows an exceptional quality of meaning and depth to conjure family and country – the despair on Dad’s face, Ella’s inquisitive childhood innocence and the juxtaposition of red dirt and blue ocean to create a visceral response.
Ella and the Ocean is a sensitive intergenerational story that reflects the beauty and the terror of our wide brown land and validates the experience of those who live in drought, longing for water. It enables young readers to experience this, and other difficult and fearful circumstances, vicariously. It is a story that could be placed into the hands of children anywhere in Australia and the world over, to be appreciated and loved.