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Left & Right

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‘No, not that left! The other left.’ If you’ve ever had that said to you, you may need my new book. Left & Right is my 14th book for Wild Dog Books, and it’s a topic that really appealed to me. I discovered that I’m not alone: 20% of people get their lefts and rights mixed up sometimes. The landscape format was fun to work with and it fitted well with the theme of the book.

I also got to use a very cool illustration of a knight in shining armour, without having to mention a damsel in distress. Win–win.

UPDATE: Left & Right was a 2018 Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book in the Eve Pownall Information Books category. This is the judge’s report:

One of the more interesting features of Left & Right is the surprise turn that the development of the topic takes around page 15 of the book. To that point the reader is taken through personal psycho-physical aspects of the topic, including eye and ear preferences, enlivened by clear and colourful graphics and photographs. Then, the text takes, well, a left turn into history, via Ancient Greek and China, into metaphysical aspects of left and right; the sinister side of the sinistral. Young readers may be surprised that left-handedness was once almost a death sentence; they will surely be surprised that, until fairly recently, it could mean a rap over the knuckles — left knuckles — in school.

A second outstanding feature of this book is the use of graphics and photography. The attributions reveal that none of these were created specifically for the book; they were taken from Shutterstock sources. Imagine the patience it must have taken to select images so perfect for the text. It’s easy to sense, though, the determination to make this an exciting reading and learning experience for the young. The colours of the graphics pop as they explain the statistical place of the reader in this dualistic world. The striking photography ranges in subject from a chilling reaction to sinistrophobia; to the happy playfulness of a kitten chasing a goldfish; and the dramatic standoff between a knight and a castle. Each in its own way represents how left-right sidedness pervades our daily world.

The larger size lettering in a clean font makes the text easy to read. This readability extends the readership of the book beyond middle to late primary years, as the bigger print could be shared with groups of early readers; and its fluency will encourage older readers to indulge their curiosity. And while the content is developed in unexpected directions, it retains continuity, in fact, looping back through symmetry and stereo senses, to brain studies which are helping to explain the left-right phenomenon. Leaving the human world, the text refers to a number of observations from the animal world and finally, after gathering spirals and spinning into this left-right dynamic leaves the reader pondering whether the Earth provided us with a naturally better way to define direction. Bouquets go to the creators of this outstandingly original book.

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