For Pity Sake Publishing, Australia, 2020
Review by Sam Tidy
Grandma’s Knicker Tree, written by Barbie Robinson and illustrated by Ian Robertson, is a beautiful reminder of why we love books and keep them within easy access on shelves in homes and libraries for reading to the little people we live for.
In the moment you hold it, you are cast gently back into that wonderful era when you didn’t know you would one day covet your Enid Blyton gems or your Golden Book treasures. From the original yet reminiscent font, to the periwinkle blue cover, you know you are treading into the territory of nostalgic sweetness to which we don’t often travel, unless led delightfully by the hand of an old book when childhood was a somewhat different experience to today’s quickly changing and challenging one.
Grandma’s Knicker Tree, with its golden age design hues is a new release and timely reminder of the family bonds that hold us together over time, despite the challenges of our era. The multi-generational family it depicts knows the value of grandparent influence to ensure that childhood remains fun and frivolous.
It’s a book that centres on family, the backyard, and the love that holds us together. It’s an Australian story too, in that our own native fauna invites itself into the book, as cheekily as it surely does each night in our own backyards, whilst we tuck our darlings into bed.
Ian Robertson’s illustrations are the classic visual realism that only a nostalgic story can be told with. His style is warm and confident and imbues charm and character with each line and rosy patch of colour.
It is clear that Barbie Robinson is a grandmother herself, in writing this gem. I can see, as the reader surely can, that she is the kind of Nana we want to read us books. Only Nanas can come up with ideas like trees that grow knickers and tell it to kids like its a completely normal thing for a backyard adventure for all the family.
Grandma’s Knicker Tree is a delightful reminder that we unconditionally love our Nanas and Poppas and all their crazy ideas, because without them, our link to the past is tenuous and held only in photographs for which the context can never be fully written.
It is stories like these that form the basis of smell memories, the sound of our grandmother’s voice and our memory of all that is safe and beautiful as we navigate a world that must remain so, for us to keep ourselves intact.