Children’s Book Review – Lottie and Walter

Cover Image for Mopoke

Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker

This book was Notable for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Picture Book of the Year.

‘I’m not swimming,’ Lottie announced. Lottie doesn’t want to be afraid, but no matter what she does, she just can’t go in the water. Until she finds a surprising friend, who turns out to be more helpful than Lottie could ever have imagined…

Imagine for a moment, going to the pool but being scared to get in the water because there is a shark.

This is the reality that Lottie sees every time she goes to the pool with her mother and baby brother. It was her secret and the reason she won’t go into the water.

Now imagine meeting a walrus named Walter – a brand new friend who you can tell your secret. A new friend who just might help you get back into the water.

I really enjoyed this book and there are a few reasons:

  • I love a tale that makes you feel all smooshy after reading it.
  • I love a good imaginary friend in a picture books because there is something wonderful about the way that illustrators show them in the child’s world.
  • I love swimming.
    • No, really, when we last went camping down south to Albany and Esperance they couldn’t get me and my niece out of the water.
  • I love a story where someone overcomes a fear and realises they love doing something they couldn’t before.
  • Plus, who can resist an Anna Walker book?

At no point in this book does the narrative or illustrations diminish the importance of Lottie’s fear. Yes, the reader knows it’s not a real shark and yes, the shark is dispelled by Walter but that doesn’t change the fact that the shark is a valid fear for Lottie and it is treated as such. This is a really important aspect of the book because no matter the fear, it is important to the child and therefore it should be treated as important by the people around them.

I was lucky enough to see Anna Walker do a live ‘artist in action’ at a conference and it’s amazing to watch the painting come to life and the way watercolour is used. I have little to no ability to draw or paint but there is something truly magical to me about art and the people who can make it.

The watercolour works really well in this book as there is so much water involved and the way the shadow of the shark is painted on the first page where we see it, reminds me of the shadows on the ocean floor when you’re snorkelling. The colour pops outside of the water but with the exception of Lottie and her objects the colour palette is tied to the greens, blues, and browns.

There is one illustration that I always stop and stare at when I’m reading and it’s one of Lottie and Walter in the ocean above a sea of coral with a whale and a shark. It’s beautiful and I think it’s utterly amazing that someone is able to create that from a blank piece of paper.

One of the defining characteristics of a book that is notable in the Picture Book of the Year category is:

Entries in this category should be books of the genre in which the text and illustrations achieve artistic and literary unity and the story, theme or concept is enhanced and unified through the illustrations.

This book does that beautifully, as mentioned the pictures are evocative of the water and they work so well with the theme but there is also the way that Anna Walker highlights the new friendship between Lottie and Walter through the illustrations.

I have watched children who have just met become fast friends and the way children on their own are able to create beautifully rich worlds while playing. For me, that is captured in the pictures of Walter and Lottie, they are sitting huddled together reading, and sharing stories and joys and that is exactly the pure joyful flush of new friendship when you’re a kid. They make me nostalgic for that feeling but I got to enjoy it with them and it is wonderful.

I haven’t spoken much about the text but one of the characteristics of an Anna Walker book is the way she can put so much meaning into just the right number of words so it’s a book that works well for younger children who don’t want to sit for long and older children who want to pour over the pictures.

On one page there are these words:

(…) and bubbles

But he didn’t get shampoo in his eyes.

From reading this we know the type of bubbles, we know they are washing their hair. There are so few words but the meaning is crystal clear and then we add in the picture of Walter (stuffed into a normal bath) with Lottie beside him, eyes closed, and the page is perfect.

I’m not sure if I have made my love of this book clear but I do love it.

I would recommend reading it to all children, and letting them read it themselves if they are old enough but also spending some time looking at all of the pictures to really take the whole book in.