Many readers will know Jeannie Baker’s work through her outstanding picturebooks such as the wordless Window, where page by page the reader follows the changes from a rural to an urban landscape, and Mirror, where links are made between two seemingly disparate world cultures. Her books are concerned with the issues, global and local, social and ecological, that face us as we impact on our changing environment.
In Circle Baker focuses on the migration and constant circling of some amazing little birds, godwits, which apparently may fly further than from the earth to the moon and back over their lifetime, and so here we follow the godwits from the shores of Australia up to China and Japan and on to Alaska and back across the huge expanse of the pacific to Australia once more. Her illustrations, in her signature style of paint with fabric and paper collage, are as in previous books highly sophisticated yet appear delightfully naïve and are balanced by her spare narrative which gives just enough information in the text, with more information for those who want it at the end of the book.
Satisfyingly the endpapers frame the story by showing the child who appears at the beginning and end of the godwits’ journey on his or her bed (the gender is not definite), first wishing he or she could fly and at the end showing the child flying with the godwits via a thought bubble, giving a subtle pointer to what a book like this can do and the impact it can have on a young mind.