After my luxurious lie in on Friday, I hauled myself out of bed to take the kids to the museum. Here we discovered treasure. Pure gold in the form of a gorgeous exhibition of original children's illustrations by a fascinating man with a wonderful story. The collection was gathered by Albert Ullin, the founder of an utter gem, The Little Bookroom, the first specialist bookshop for children in the WORLD. Images include work from the last 33 years of children's publishing in Australia with work from favourite illustrators of the calibre of Jeannie Baker, May Gibbs, Bob Graham and Graham Base.
There is something about catching sight of these images, they are so familiar. Its as if you have somehow internalised the work on reading them in childhood. They become part of your structure and signify much more than their image. A stunning pen and ink and watercolour image by Ron Brooks from one of my childhood favourites, "John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat" by Jenny Wagner, brought tears to my eyes, joy tears, like bumping into a beloved and long lost friend. The image of John Brown, the big old English sheep dog staring at the midnight cat, sent me back 35 years. I re-felt the emotions evoked by the book, the sadness of this big, loyal. fluffy dog, (who was just like my childhood puppy, Henry) and his frustrations at having to make room for the feline intruder. I remembered the feeling far more than the story itself. (When I reread favourite childhood books, I often find that my memory has warped the story line.)
Aside from the images, the exhibition reveals the story of Albert Ullen, a man who started a bookshop. But not just any bookshop, one specifically to provide quality lilterature for children. A space for children not before provided on the whole planet! And he began with nothing but passion and knowledge. He created something from nothing which has lasted 52 years and inspired many other heavenly little children's bookshops.
Bookshops are havens. They provide sancitity, silence and inspiration. They help create emotions and memories of characters, words and images that lock into a child's body and cells, enough to bring gasps and tears to the adult 30 years later.
We are lucky enough to have three excellent bookshops in our town. Me and the kids love them. We visit weekly, almost, and regulary dedicate some of our funds to purchases from them. I know that books are cheaper in the internet, but I want our bookshops to remain open. I hope that they are here for ever and that one day I will buy " The Eleventh Hour" by Graeme Base, " Chicken Soup with Rice" and "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak and " Mr Magnolia" by Quentin Blake, for my grandchildren.
I have never been to The Little Bookroom and I can't believe I had never heard of it until last Friday. It is on the top of my list for the next trip to the Big Town. However, I am very pleased to live at a time when I can follow them on Facebook and Twitter and read their web site and to have recalled the weird emotions of childhood while sharing in the illustration collection of its founder.
The exhibition 'Hooked on Books: Australian children's picture book illustrations from the Collection of Albert Ullin OAM' is continuing at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery until October.
I sent a children's book manuscript submission to a publishing house. I hope that one day my work is good enough to be published and to sit on the shelves of "The Little Bookroom".