Mopoke – Children’s Book Week Review

Cover Image for Mopoke

Mopoke by Philip Bunting

This book was Shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Picture Book of the Year, and also shortlisted in the Crichton Award for New Illustrators category.

This is a Mopoke. Mopoke loves peace and quiet. He is about to find out that you can’t always get what you want.


I will start by saying, I thought this book was funny. And after I’d read it, I found some other library staff and read it to them. That, in my opinion, is one of the best indicators of a book being good – you encourage others to read it too (or just read it to them).

So much of my enjoyment of this book came through the pictures which is why I’m unsurprised that it was nominated in two awards that are all about pictures. Philip Bunting wrote and illustrated this book about a very sassy owl (a Southern Boobook to be specific) called Mopoke. Mokpoke spends most of the book on a tree limb with the black, starry sky behind him. Mopoke is making me laugh again as I flick through it while I’m trying to think of ways to describe this book. On each page we get a variation of:

This is a mopoke.

We have a poshpoke with a hat, monocle, and briefcase. We have two pokes (with Mopoke giving the second poke some serious side eye). We have yo-poke with a yoyo. We have lots of different pokes and through very subtle illustration there is so much expressed by our owl friend. It sometimes seems like the bird is rather put upon that the author/illustrator is putting it in these situations. I love the sheer simplicity of it knowing (as someone who cannot draw) that is is not simple at all but really based on a series of very thought-out decisions.

The humour of the book is tied intrinsically to the pictures but it is though the excellent word play that it all works – we have a poorpoke with their cloth cap, empty pocket, and red package of all of their belongings tied to the end of a stick which our world-knowledge tell us signifies the specific look of people during the Depression-era. A reference that may not hold a connection for children but they still enjoy the pictures. Then we have the Fee-fi-fo-poke and any child who has heard European fairytales knows what is going on with the giant owl behind Mopoke.

I really love this book, it’s so wonderfully written and illustrated that it’s great fun for kids, and those of us who don’t believe that adulthood is about acting ‘very’ seriously. I would encourage you to reserve a copy today from the library and then share it with everyone you know.