Hope is the Thing

31 March 2023

Hope is the Thing, by Johanna Bell, illustrated by Erica Wagner, published by Allen & Unwin, 2023

Shortlisted 2024 CBCA New Illustrator Award

'This is a beautiful poem about hope and features some of Australia’s most beautiful and well-known birds. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that keeps drawing me back to this stunning creation, but I absolutely love it.’ Narissa Leung, ozlitteacher

'With simple, rhythmic text and beautifully evocative images, this book takes a tour through some of Australia's best-known and most threatened birds. The Superb Lyrebird, Eastern Curlew and Laughing Kookaburra are among the many that are brought vividly to life in wondrous, collage-style images that seem to lift off the page, immersing the young reader in the beauty and colour of the natural world. The uplifting words, efficiently conveying the birds' various behaviours and habitats, are melodious and dynamic, and work as the best picture books do: creating an entertaining, immersive experience while gently nudging at something larger. A gorgeous book.' Australian Birdlife, March 2023

'Emily Dickinson’s poem "Hope is the Thing with Feathers", first appeared in 1891. Over a hundred years later, dynamic creatives Johanna Bell and Erica Wagner have reframed the message in a contemporary expansion of Dickinson’s core concept, inviting us to reflect on resilience in the natural world. ... There is a story within the story of a bird-loving young girl who sits in the first spread with binoculars, papers and scissors – most likely the ‘creator’ of the book itself, though this is never mentioned in the text, making it a wonderful reference point for exploring visual storytelling. ...This book will be a useful inclusion for classroom discussions of the environment, or as inspiration for collage crafts, in addition to being a lovely read. It’s also highly giftable as a response to grief or loss, or for any observant, bird-loving young readers.' Laura Cain Gray, Story Links, February 2023

'Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope is the Thing is a stunning book from Australians Johanna Bell and Erica Wagner. It celebrates the joy and beauty of small, everyday moments. They write in a note to readers that they wanted to create a book that would inspire children to see the beauty and hope in the world after the devastating bushfires in 2019. The rhyming text is not so much a story as it is a list of ways hope endures in the world, using Australian birds. From the wedge-tailed eagle flying to the Ibis digging through bins, Bell and Wagner illustrate how simple and powerful nature is. I love the use of collage for the illustrations; it provides depth and texture without overwhelming the message of the story. It also makes the reader feel as though the little girl in the story is creating the book as you’re reading it, which is a truly magical effect. Perfect for ages 3+.' Jennifer Fraioli, Readings

'The illustrations are marvellously executed, drawing the eyes to the multitude of media used in the collages … [a] positively glowing book.’  Fran Knight, ReadPlus

A celebration of hope and renewal ... Each spread immerses the reader in a bird's journey—from soaring over sunlit beaches to nestling in grassy plains or scavenging in city bins—making every page an artwork in its own right. Together, they form a unified sequence that gives the poetic narrative wings, elevating the text to new heights.' CBCA Judges' report

'Wagner does observational drawings, but the cut-out practice results in a marvellously dynamic and surprising meditation on birds, almost mimicking their raucous behaviour.’ Rhonda DredgeInnercity News

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