Review: Imagine: Book & Jigsaw Puzzle Set, by Alison Lester

Two children picture themselves exploring the natural environment far beyond their everyday life in the re-release of this picture book for young readers with a 150-piece puzzle set.

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Can you imagine yourself on a polar expedition, dodging penguins as they toboggan to and fro across the snow? Somewhere warmer, perhaps? Maybe you can see yourself deep in the jungle, cuddling a cheetah while monkeys swing and chatter overhead. Fancy an aquatic adventure instead? Think about the wonderful creatures you’d encounter if you dived deep under the ocean waves!

Imagine, the much-loved picture book first published in 1989 by Australian author and illustrator Alison Lester, takes young readers on a journey from the familiarity of play time at home to the wonders of a series of wild landscapes. This latest paperback edition comes boxed in a sturdy slipcase with a matching 150-piece (300 by 760 mm) jigsaw puzzle.

In the story, two children picture themselves exploring the natural environment far beyond their everyday life. Each sequence begins with the girl and boy (and their obliging ginger cat) playing together at home before the action shifts to show them happily hanging out with a large assortment of animals and birds (even dinosaurs are paid a visit).

The text – full of action-packed imagery – takes us to the imagined destinations, while an initial image illustrates the dress-ups and pretend play scenarios. The following double page spreads place the children in their imagined worlds. Words border the edges of these pages, introducing related vocabulary and acting as pointers to features of the pictures, giving us clues as to what to look out for. The art work is glorious – each picture is rich with amusing detail.

In the puzzle image the girl perches on a rock beside a creek and the boy sits in a tree, legs dangling from a branch. It’s evening in the Australian landscape. The moon is rising above the tree line, lighting the way for the animals who are gathering by the stream. Children will enjoy naming their favourite creatures and becoming familiar with some of the lesser-known fauna as well. Readers can visit the Allen and Unwin website to download a key to help identify all of the animals featured in the puzzle and the book.

Alison Lester’s publications (including classics such as Kissed by the Moon, Are We There Yet? and Magic Beach) are loved worldwide, and her work has been widely recognised. She was the winner of the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, the 2016 Dromkeen Medal and the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature. In 2012 and 2013 she was Australia’s Children’s Laureate.

Time to dream again. After a big journey, where do we most want to be? Back in our little house with all that we need to make us feel comfortable. Imagine reminds us that simple props and bits and pieces found around the house are the best tools for play and that, no matter how far we travel, there’s no place like home. This little book for little people is a cosy and comforting read that is beautifully enhanced by the accompanying puzzle.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

Rating out of 10: 10

Distributed by: Allen and Unwin
Released: December 2018
RRP: $24.99

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