MAY GIBBS: MORE THAN A FAIRY TALE

Robert Holden & Jane Brum­mitt, Hardie Grant Books, $30

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - REVIEWS - Blanche Clark

May Gibbs has been a house­hold name in Aus­tralia since her gum­nut ba­bies first ap­peared in 1913. How­ever, de­tails of her life have re­mained elu­sive. Au­thors Robert Holden and Jane Brum­mitt write that Gibbs’ life fol­lowed a sim­i­lar tra­jec­tory to writer Miles Franklin, “both trav­el­ling over­seas gain­ing for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, as well as in­volv­ing them­selves in the suf­frage move­ment”. But while Franklin left be­hind ex­ten­sive writ­ten doc­u­men­ta­tion, de­tails of Gibbs’ life have been buried in “au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal scraps”, news­pa­pers, ship­ping records, ex­hi­bi­tion and con­cert cat­a­logues, pro­grams and re­views, and the minds of rel­a­tives. Her il­lus­tra­tions for mag­a­zine cov­ers re­vealed her artis­tic en­deav­ours be­fore she fo­cused on chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Gibbs went on to be­come Aus­tralia’s first pro­fes­sion­ally trained book il­lus­tra­tor. Richly il­lus­trated with her draw­ings, por­trai­ture, wa­ter­colours, sketches, car­toons and post­cards, this book sur­prises and de­lights. It also en­sures Gibbs is more than folk­lore.

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