Books & Literature

Book Review: Voice of the Sea, by John Williamson

PICTURE BOOK: From Australia’s beloved icon, singer-songwriter, John Williamson, comes a new national anthem of the sea, now a powerful picture book.

A great starting point for teachers or parents to have a discussion about our responsibility towards our magnificent oceans.

Feature image credit: Penguin Books Australia

Beloved Australian singer-songwriter John Williamson is well known for his songs about Australia including Old Man Emu and True Blue. With his immediately recognisable voice, he has been entertaining audiences for over 50 years and has sold over 5 million albums.

Three of Williamson’s songs have been published as children’s picture books, and now Voice of the Sea is available in book format. The original concept for the song Voice of the Sea came about when Williamson was asked to write something for the Australian Marine Conservation Society. With illustrations by Andrea Innocent and Jonathon Chong, it could easily become a favourite with parents, children and teachers.

A beautifully illustrated and tactile front cover immediately draws the reader in. A large turtle sits amongst a reef, fish, and a girl diving. The turtle is looking at us with a bemused smile on its face. As we begin reading, we discover all that is good about the ocean like swimming, boating, and fishing. But when the reef loses its colour and we see rubbish floating in the water, we realise all is not okay. The sea is asking us why we are not caring for it anymore. It cares for the creatures of the sea, helps us to travel across the world, and gives us food, but are we in turn looking after it?

There is a lot to discover in each illustration and much discussion will come from reading this story. The turtle leads us through each page, showing us the beauty of the oceans, but also the danger inherent if we ignore our part in the demise of its pristine waters.  

Because the book faithfully follows the words of the song, children can listen to the music while turning the page, and thus get a real sense of the problems we are creating. This gives an added dimension to the book.

In a classroom, teachers could read the story, teach the children the song, and they will find that many art ideas will spring to mind, including possibly a collage, a timeline of what has happened, or mobiles. It would also make a great assembly item with the children singing the song while pictures, either from the book or children’s own art work, are being shown on the screen.

Voice of the Sea is a book that is a worthy addition to any library.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: February 2024
RRP: $19.99

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