Little Brown Bushrat

This bright, inviting hardback is heralded as the first picturebook from the winner of the Macmillan prize for illustration 2000. It takes the form of a fable whereby the little bushrat learns that he too has a talent or skill that sets him apart from his peers. While the other animals in the Australian bush can jump the highest, run the fastest and swim the best, the bushrat feels that he is too small and scrawny to possibly excel at anything. But when a bush fire breaks out and threatens the animals, the bushrat proves that he is the bravest and saves the day – redeeming himself before the jubilant collection of animals.

The illustrations are exuberant and warm – reflecting the ‘feel-good’ element of the story. The expressions on the animals’ faces are particularly noteworthy – I especially liked the koala (whose talent was for sleeping longer than anyone else).