Something Wonderful
illustrated by Karen Blair and written by Raewyn Caisley

Here is another lovely book to be nominated as a “notable book” by The Children’s Book Council of Australia for Children’s Book Week 2017 in the Picture Book of the Year 2017 category.

Something Wonderful is a story about a boy named Sam. Sam and his family lived on a farm, so as you can imagine, he had a lot of chores and other things do. Sam seemed to be a bit of a daydreamer, though, getting distracted and sidetracked and occasionally even completely forgetting to do his chores! But Sam was also a thinker.

“He pulled things apart … then put them back together.”

Sam’s dad wasn’t so sure Sam was ‘making himself useful’ but his mum didn’t mind so much when he forgot his chores …

” ‘What he’s doing is important too,’ she told Dad. ‘You’ll see.’ “

I won’t spoil the story by going any further but I will say that this story (and illustrations) is a delightfully light, airy and easy-going tale that has some beautiful and, I think, important wisdom to convey. I use the word ‘wisdom’ here rather than ‘message’ because unfortunately I think ‘message’ books – regardless of how positive and important the messages are – have become increasingly unsubtle and preachy these days and are a bit of a blunt instrument that takes you out of the story space and, bascially, kind of ruin the joy of reading a bit. I have always found that an idea/wisdom/way of thinking about something/’message’ has more meaning, power and lasting effect if it comes to the reader’s mind in it’s own time. A well told story, no matter how short or simple, is always able to convey meaning through a more natural, unconscious and unpressured way that puts the narrative, characters and enjoyment of the tale first. This is a book I would put in that category and is, for me, all the more enjoyable for it.

I can’t put it better than the publishers themselves have written on the back cover: ” … An inspirational story about discovery, invention and the importance of dreams.”

Dreaming, daydreaming, just mucking around, or even ‘goofing off’ [if you’re a real grump! – Ed.] has it’s place in life and especially in the lives of children in the form of unstructured play. There are many reports and studies over a long period of time that I could link to on this topic (and bore you with) that show the long term benefits this kind of play has for the mental, physical and general developement and wellbeing of children – and the adults they become – but I won’t. I don’t want this review to become ironically preachy and message trumpeting!

There is a nice dedication inside the front of the book that speaks directly to this and it’s worth putting here, in full, just in case you don’t get around to reading this little gem of a picture book:

“Sam is a real person. He grew up in a small country town in Western Australia. He works at a famous university in Europe, where he is trying to figure out what is in-between the smallest things. This book is dedicated to Sam, and to all the creative thinkers. R.C.”

We’re not all going to become whizz-bang rocket scientists but that’s not really the point; creativity in play and thought is about having a go, getting your hands dirty and, in your own time and at your own pace, working stuff out. With any luck, you’ll be raising a child that will be able to work stuff out for themselves as they get older – and isn’t that a gift worth giving them?